Washington – The Trump administration on Tuesday issued a long-awaited regulation banning “bump stocks,” devices that allows semi-automatic rifles to shoot like a machine gun.
Connecticut banned the sale, possession or manufacture of bump stocks as of Oct. 1. Now the owners of bump stocks in the state will also face federal prosecution if they possess the devices.
The new federal regulation, signed by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Tuesday, gives gun owners until late March to turn in or destroy the devices. After that, it will be illegal to possess them under the same federal laws that prohibit machine guns.
Bump stocks became the focus of debate after they were used during the massacre in Las Vegas in October of 2017, where a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a country music concert, killing 58 and injuring hundreds more.
Gun control advocates hailed the Trump administration move, but some said it took too long.
“This is something that should have been taken up in the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy. “It is unconscionable that it took the Trump administration this long to pursue common sense and public protection over the wants of the NRA. In fact, I can only suspect that it took them this long because they wished to get past the mid-terms.”
The new regulations reverse a 2010 ATF decision by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that found bump stocks are not like machine guns and could not be regulated unless Congress acted to regulate or ban them.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was among several Democrats who said legislation is still needed.
“This executive order is a welcome and positive step, but we still need the clear and certain protection that can only come from legislation banning these deadly devices for good” Blumenthal said. “I will continue to call for a vote on legislation to close the bump stock loophole in the automatic weapons ban.”
Blumenthal also said “this action is further evidence that the vicelike grip of the NRA is breaking, and that we are one step closer to commonsense gun violence reform.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said “I’m happy the Trump administration is finally doing this, but nobody should get a pat on the back for doing away with these mass killing devices. This should have been done a long time ago.”
He also said its important for Congress to ban bump stocks to make it “crystal clear” the government has the authority to ban the devices.
Another reason Democrats said legislation is still needed is that Gun Owners of America, a fierce defender of gun rights, said Tuesday it would sue to block the legislation.
“This… has important implications for gun owners since, in the coming days, an estimated half a million bump stock owners will have the difficult decision of either destroying or surrendering their valuable property — or else risk felony prosecution,” said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. “ATF’s claim that it can rewrite congressional law cannot pass legal muster. Agencies are not free to rewrite laws under the guise of ‘interpretation’ of a statute, especially where the law’s meaning is clear.”
Pratt said the new ATF regulations “would arbitrarily redefine bump stocks as ‘machine guns’ — and, down the road, could implicate the right to own AR-15’s and many other lawfully owned semi-automatic firearms.”