The Department of Justice has submitted a notice to the Office of Management and Budget to expand the definition of “machinegun” to include any gun outfitted with “bump stocks.” President Trump had pledged to make the accessory illegal in the wake of the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, FL, last month that killed seventeen people, mostly students.
Bump stocks are accessories that, when attached to the end of a rifle, use the force of the gun’s kickback to allow a shooter to rapidly increase the rate at which the trigger is pulled. Many more rounds of ammunition are fired than would otherwise be when one is in use.
Bump stocks became the subject of controversy last year when it was learned that the assailant in the Las Vegas mass shooting used them to increase the number of rounds fired. That assailant, Stephen Paddock, fired on an unsuspecting crowd of concertgoers from his 32nd-floor hotel room, killing fifty-eight and wounding 500 others.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ directive, expanding the definition of “machinegun” to include bump stocks, effectively makes them illegal. The National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act outlaw the buying, selling and manufacture of any fully automatic weapon, or machinegun, after 1986, with no exceptions. According the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), replacement parts for machineguns manufactured prior to 1986 are not even legal.
In submitting the notice Sessions reiterated the commitment he says President Trump has toward ensuring gun safety.
“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. 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,” he said.
Gun-control advocates were encouraged by the but cautioned that more needs to be done, especially by Congress. In a statement to ITN, John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety said, “We applaud the Department of Justice for taking this important step, and we hope a bump stocks rule gets approved quickly. However, this action alone is not enough to meet the moment.”
“Across the country, Americans are demanding action on gun safety, states are delivering, and it’s time for Congress to follow suit,” he added.
The rule has to be approved by the OMB as part of the regulatory review process. ATF also has to review the rule change and solicit and then evaluate public comments regarding the notice. The process can take months.
The DOJ says it will seek to publish the notice as soon as possible once it is approved by the OMB.