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DOJ opens door to regulating bump stocks

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it has begun a federal rule-making process that could reinterpret the l...

Posted: Dec 17, 2017 1:30 PM
Updated: Dec 17, 2017 1:30 PM

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it has begun a federal rule-making process that could reinterpret the legality of certain bump fire stock devices, a piece of equipment that enabled the Las Vegas gunman in October to fire on concertgoers more rapidly, mimicking automatic fire.

The announcement comes the day before the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is set to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the device and amid calls from legislators to prevent the future sale of the part.

Bump stocks were approved for sale under a 2010 memo from the ATF

Bump stocks modify rifles like the AR-15 to allow it to fire in rapid succession

Investigators have said 12 bump fire stock -- or bump stock -- devices were found in the shooter's hotel room in Las Vegas. Fifty-eight people died in the attack.

"Possessing firearm parts that are used exclusively in converting a weapon into a machine gun is illegal, except for certain limited circumstances," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "The regulatory clarification we begin today will help us to continue to protect the American people by carrying out the laws duly enacted by our representatives in Congress."

Bump stocks were approved for sale under a 2010 memo from the ATF's Firearms Technology Branch. Because the device "performs no automatic mechanical function when installed" and the shooter must still apply "constant" forward and rearward pressure to a gun equipped with one, the memo said the agency found the bump stock was a "firearm part," and therefore not regulated under federal gun laws.

Also known by the brand name Slide Fire, bump stocks modify rifles like the AR-15 to allow it to fire in rapid succession, simulating automatic fire. They work when applied to a rifle's receiver by using the recoil effect of semiautomatic rifle fire to "bump" the gun's trigger back into the trigger finger, causing the weapon to discharge repeatedly.

Using rifles equipped with the devices, the Las Vegas gunman was able to shoot 1,100 rounds in less than 10 minutes, at times firing off 100 rounds in the span of a few seconds, according to Steven Wolfson, the district attorney of Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas.

"A bump stock -- it should be banned, it should be disallowed, it should be wiped off the face of the earth," Wolfson said last week.

In the wake of the shooting, lawmakers called for a fix to prevent the sale of the device. Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate to ban the bump stock, while others placed the onus on the ATF to reissue the guidance around the legality of the device.

Lawmakers led by Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Ohio asked the ATF to consider a rules change that would define rifles equipped with bump stocks as machine guns, already prohibited under existing regulations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and the NRA both threw their weight behind a regulatory fix instead of a legislative ban on the device.

In a December 11 letter addressed to Kinzinger and obtained by CNN, the assistant director of the ATF, Christopher Schaefer, wrote, "After thorough consideration, ATF has decided to initiate the process of promulgating a Federal regulation interpreting the definition of 'machine gun' in the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act to clarify whether certain bump-stock devices fall within that definition.

The estimated timeline for a ruling, congressional sources tell CNN, is eight to 12 months.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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