BATFE, DOJ Rethinking Bump Stock Ruling

Shooting instructor Frankie McRae illustrates the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a "bump stock" at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. The stock uses the recoil of the semiautomatic rifle to let the finger "bump" the trigger, making it different from a fully automatic machine gun, which are illegal for most civilians to own. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

To call the bump stock controversial at this point may be the biggest understatement of the year, even outpacing “Lena Dunham is unattractive” in its scale.


Ever since the Las Vegas massacre, the devices have been derided, even by people who are ostensible pro-Second Amendment sorts. Even the National Rifle Association appeared to call for new regulations on the items. While the NRA was quick to oppose actual bump stock laws, even bipartisan ones, they maintained that it was the place of the BATFE to step in and act.

Well, it looks like they’re getting their wish.

The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday that it is considering a possible ban on certain bump stocks, the attachments that make semiautomatic rifles fire faster and were used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas in October.

The Las Vegas gunman’s use of bump stock to allow his weapons to fire like fully automatic machine guns, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds, has led to rare bipartisan agreement in Congress on the need to review whether they should be banned.

“Possessing firearm parts that are used exclusively in converting a weapon into a machine gun is illegal, except for certain limited circumstances,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said in a joint statement. “Today we begin the process of determining whether or not bump stocks are covered by this prohibition.”

Previously, Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill that would outlaw bump stocks, while several Republicans who have typically opposed gun restrictions signaled a willingness to explore the issue.

As part of the ATF’s review into bump stocks, it plans to publish a notice that will eventually appear in the Federal Register seeking public comment.

The legal analysis will revolve around the definition of the term “machinegun” and whether bump stocks fall in that definition.


There still a lot that remains to be seen. As it stands, they’re simply reviewing the earlier decision. This could be for political reasons–to be seen as taking the matter seriously–or because they believe they need to take a step back and review the status of bump stocks.

However, judging by the criteria used, it’s hard to argue that a bump stock is a machine gun or that it should be regulated as one. After all, if I can replicate the same thing with a rubber band, I’m pretty sure regulating the stocks won’t actually accomplish anything. Unless, of course, BATFE wants to regulate rubber bands (I know, I know…don’t give ’em any ideas).

Still, this is news we all should at least keep our eyes on. After all, if they can regulate something as legal one day and illegal the next, how quickly can they turn law-abiding citizens into criminals?

Of course, this would hardly be the first time BATFE changed their minds.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member