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: 471092

Reported Deaths: 9165
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32160471
Hinds30628574
DeSoto29693344
Jackson23098335
Rankin21062357
Lee14515218
Madison13993264
Jones13112218
Forrest12926231
Lauderdale11301294
Lowndes10206171
Lamar10017125
Pearl River8616208
Lafayette8052136
Hancock7172111
Washington6816146
Oktibbeha6799117
Neshoba6377201
Monroe6343158
Warren6310159
Pontotoc607692
Panola6056123
Bolivar5991143
Marshall5948116
Union562385
Pike5450133
Lincoln5217129
Alcorn516288
George456466
Scott450392
Leflore4392140
Prentiss435275
Itawamba433295
Tippah432480
Simpson4251110
Copiah424784
Wayne422363
Tate4202100
Adams4184110
Yazoo412486
Sunflower4077104
Covington406591
Marion4016100
Leake390485
Coahoma387098
Newton361674
Grenada3511100
Stone343757
Tishomingo323788
Attala319685
Jasper309562
Winston299191
Clay286172
Chickasaw280564
Clarke275587
Calhoun258539
Holmes258585
Smith242246
Yalobusha216447
Tallahatchie214949
Walthall204657
Lawrence203231
Greene202645
Perry195753
Webster191642
Amite191451
Noxubee174438
Montgomery169453
Jefferson Davis164341
Carroll159437
Tunica147634
Benton138232
Kemper136939
Claiborne125534
Choctaw124424
Humphreys123037
Franklin114327
Quitman101425
Wilkinson98435
Jefferson86332
Sharkey61720
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 761865

Reported Deaths: 12856
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1087131712
Mobile696141168
Madison47959565
Baldwin35517431
Shelby34948283
Tuscaloosa32719498
Montgomery32358648
Lee21708200
Calhoun19823367
Morgan19140308
Etowah18450414
Marshall17138255
Houston15970340
St. Clair14803270
Limestone13986179
Elmore13893240
Cullman13892229
Lauderdale12986264
Talladega12235203
DeKalb11788220
Walker10110304
Autauga9416120
Blount9329149
Jackson9026132
Coffee8598153
Colbert8257160
Dale8204143
Escambia639399
Tallapoosa6315165
Covington6265153
Chilton6188128
Russell588353
Franklin560093
Chambers5182127
Dallas4595174
Marion4540114
Clarke447871
Pike441488
Geneva419499
Winston402682
Lawrence4018101
Bibb392976
Barbour335567
Marengo318878
Monroe308244
Butler307679
Pickens297366
Henry290752
Randolph290055
Hale284081
Cherokee277249
Fayette269769
Washington242244
Crenshaw229463
Clay220261
Macon212554
Cleburne207346
Lamar185538
Conecuh175237
Lowndes168156
Coosa161531
Wilcox153533
Bullock146242
Perry133132
Sumter122735
Greene118241
Choctaw71925
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