By Will Racke
The Department of Justice announced Saturday that it has initiated the process of banning bump stocks through a change in how firearms laws are interpreted by federal regulators.
In a notice submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, the DOJ recommended the definition of “machine gun” in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act be expanded to include bump stock type devices.
Such a change would reverse a 2010 decision by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that found bump stocks did not qualify as machine guns and could not be regulated without an amendment to existing firearms law or the passage of a new one.
The notice was expected after President Donald Trump ordered the DOJ to explore a ban on bump stocks in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school in February.
“President Trump is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of every American and he has directed us to propose a regulation addressing bump stocks,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “To that end, the Department of Justice has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget a notice of a proposed regulation to clarify that the National Firearms and Gun Control Act defines ‘machinegun’ to include bump stock type devices.”
Bump stocks, a detachable accessory that increases the rate of fire on semi-automatic rifles, gained notoriety after the Las Vegas massacre in October, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. The shooter placed bump stocks on several of the rifles he used in the attack, though it is not clear how many of the more than 1,000 rounds he fired came from those guns.
A push by lawmakers to ban bump stocks failed in the aftermath of the Las Vegas incident, but the Florida school shooting turned up the pressure on the Trump administration to address the matter through regulation. Saturday’s notice still has to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget before the regulation can be published in the Federal Register.
Bump stock manufacturers could challenge the regulation as being beyond the scope of the president’s authority to regulate firearms. Some ATF officials believe the administration lacks the authority to ban the devices.
The National Rifle Association has supported tighter controls on bump stocks, but has not endorsed Trump’s proposed ban. The group said it would wait for the publication of the regulation before releasing an opinion on the matter.