Legislation & Lobbying
A new regulation announced on Tuesday bans bump stocks that are used to accelerate gunfire on semi-automatic weapons.
Bump stocks didn’t exist when a federal law outlawed the possession or transfer of machine guns in 1986, the rule says. Bump stocks make semi-automatic weapons function as machine guns and are therefore banned under the law, the rule concludes.
People who own bump stocks must destroy them or turn them in to federal agents within 90 days, the effective date of the final rule. The rule was issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and signed by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
The new rule is contrary to a conclusion reached by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2010. The ATF said then that bump stocks aren’t regulated by existing law.
Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had used a bump stock to kill 58 people at a country music festival in October 2017. Nikolas Cruz, the Valentine’s Day shooter who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, did not use a bump stock, however. President Donald Trump announced that he was seeking the bump stock ban shortly after the Florida shooting.
Three gun-rights groups and a bump-stock owner challenged the new regulation in a suit filed on Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C. The suit alleges violations of constitutional protections against retroactive imposition of criminal punishment, taking without just compensation, and interference with contract expectations.
The suit also claims violations of the Administrative Procedure Act. The “ATF’s abrupt about-face on this issue in promulgating and implementing the final rule to criminalize that which it had for years expressly deemed legal under the law of Congress inherently smacks of agency abuse or dereliction of duty in following the law,” the suit says.
The suit also claims that Whitaker was not appointed according to federal law, and he had no authority to sign the final rule.
The suit is Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
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