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Bump stocks or bump fire stocks are gun stocks that can be used to assist in bump firing. Bump firing is the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to fire ammunition cartridges in rapid succession, but with a loss of accuracy.
The legality of bump stocks in the United States came under question following the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which left 60 civilians dead and an additional 867 injured; the gunman was found to have equipped them to his weapons. Several states passed legislation restricting ownership of bump stocks following this shooting and the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School months later, and the U.S. Justice Department banned them at the federal level in December 2018.
Bump fire stocksEdit
Bump fire stocks are gun stocks that are specially designed to make bump firing easier, which assist semi-automatic firearms with somewhat mimicking the firing motion of fully automatic weapons but does not make the firearm automatic. Essentially, bump stocks assist rapid fire by "bumping" the trigger against one's finger (as opposed to one's finger pulling on the trigger) thus allowing the firearm's recoil, plus constant forward pressure by the non-shooting arm, to actuate the trigger. Bump fire stocks can be placed on a few common weapon platforms such as the AR or AK families. They can achieve rates of fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute depending on the gun. By 2018, bump fire stocks in the United States would sell for around $100 and up, with prices increasing prior to enactment of federal regulation.
Slide Fire Solutions, the inventor, patent holder, and leading manufacturer of bump stocks, suspended sales after bump stocks were used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and resumed sales a month later. On May 20, 2018, 95 days after Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Slide Fire Solutions permanently halted sales and production of its products.
History of regulationEdit
In 2002, one of the first bump stock-type devices, the Akins Accelerator invented by Bill Akins, was deemed by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to not be a "machinegun". The Akins Accelerator used an internal spring to force the firearm forward to re-make contact with the trigger finger after the recoil of the previous shot pushed the firearm rearward. The ATF interpreted a "single function of the trigger" to mean a "single movement of the trigger", and since the trigger moved for each shot, the Akins Accelerator was deemed to not be a machinegun. Later, in 2006, the ATF reversed course and reinterpreted the language to mean "single pull of the trigger", which reclassified the Akins Accelerator as a machinegun. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the new interpretation in February 2009.
More modern bump stocks were invented by Slide Fire Solutions founder Jeremiah Cottle as a replacement stock for people who have limited hand mobility. Such bump stocks have no internal spring and require constant forward pressure by the non-shooting arm in order to maintain continuous fire. Between 2008 and 2017, the ATF issued ten letter rulings that classified bump stocks as a "firearm part", which are unregulated. However, in March 2018, as a result of the use of bump stocks in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a plan to reclassify bump stocks as "machineguns" under existing federal law, effectively[Note 1] banning them nationwide. Only two states had banned bump stocks prior to the Las Vegas shooting. The final rule of the DoJ was issued on December 18, 2018. Now, as of March 26, 2019[update], bump stocks are illegal for almost all US civilians, but multiple lawsuits are pending that challenge that rule. In May 2019, the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 prohibited bump stocks in the UK.
Recent polls show public support for a bump stock ban. Immediately following the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, 72% of registered voters supported a bump stock ban, including 68% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats. A 2018 poll found 81% of American adults supported banning bump stocks with a margin of error of ±3.5%. A different poll around the same time found 56% of American adults supported banning bump stocks with a margin of error of ±4%.
Regulatory status in the United StatesEdit
The ATF ruled in 2010 that bump stocks were not a firearm subject to regulation and allowed their sale as an unregulated firearm part. In the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, twelve bump stocks were found at the scene. The National Rifle Association stated on October 5, 2017, "Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations", and called on regulators to "immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law". The 2017 shooting generated bipartisan interest in regulating bump stocks. On October 4, 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, but it was not acted upon. Instead, on February 20, 2018, President Trump instructed the ATF to issue regulations to treat bump stocks as machineguns.
On March 23, 2018, the Department of Justice announced a plan to change the regulatory status of bump stocks. The proposed change would reclassify bump stocks as "machineguns" and effectively[Note 1] ban the devices in the United States under existing federal law. A notice of proposed rulemaking was issued by the ATF on March 29, 2018, and opened for public comments. Slightly more than 119,000 comments were submitted in support of the proposed rule, while slightly more than 66,000 comments expressed opposition to it. On December 18, 2018, the final regulation to ban bump stocks was issued by the Department of Justice and published in the Federal Register on December 26. The final rule states that "bump-stock-type devices" are covered by the Gun Control Act, as amended, which with limited exceptions, makes it unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machine-gun unless it was lawfully possessed prior to 1986. Since the bump-stock-type devices covered by this final rule were not in existence prior to 1986, they would be prohibited when the rule becomes effective. The ban went into effect on March 26, 2019, by which owners of bump stocks were required to destroy them or surrender them to ATF, punishable by 10 years imprisonment and $250,000 fine.
Prior to the federal ban effective March 26, 2019, some states had taken action on their own to restrict ownership of the accessory. Since 1990, the sale of bump stocks has been illegal in California. They were banned in New York with the passage of the NY SAFE Act in 2013, and more explicitly banned in early 2019. The device's legal status is unclear in Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico.
After the 2017 Las Vegas shootingEdit
In his final day as governor in January 2018, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation making the gun accessory illegal in New Jersey. Massachusetts banned bump stocks after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.
In March 2018, following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Florida enacted SB 7026, which, among other things, banned bump stocks. The portion of the legislation banning bump stocks took effect in October 2018; possession in Florida is a third-degree felony. Vermont passed a similar law in 2018, which went into effect in October 2018; possession in Vermont is a misdemeanor. Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Washington, Washington D.C., and Nevada have also banned bump stocks.
Gun Owners of AmericaEdit
In December 2018, Gun Owners of America filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Western Michigan seeking an preliminary injunction against the ban. On March 21, 2019, that request was denied by the district court. On March 25, 2019, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an injunction and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court which denied the request on March 28. The case is currently pending before the Sixth Circuit on the merits.
Guedes, Codrea, Firearms Policy CoalitionEdit
The Firearms Policy Coalition and other groups sued in the U.S. District Court of District of Columbia, also seeking an injunction. In February 2019, the District Court denied the Firearms Policy Coalition request for an injunction, determining that the group had not put forward convincing legal arguments that the ban was invalid. On March 23, 2019, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the effective date of the regulation that applies only to the plaintiffs. On March 25, 2019, the court clarified that its stay also applies members of the plaintiff organizations (Firearms Policy Coalition, Madison Society Foundation, and Florida Carry). A broader injunction was denied by the Supreme Court. On April 1, 2019, the Appeals Court denied a preliminary injunction in a per curiam decision with a noted dissent, based largely on Chevron deference, and allowed the ban to go into effect for the plaintiffs. On April 3, 2019, a second stay application was submitted to the Supreme Court but was denied on April 5, 2019. A petition for Supreme Court review was rejected on March 2, 2020. The case is currently pending before the District Court in D.C. on the merits.
A lawsuit by the Utah Shooting Sports Council was filed in the U.S. District Court of Utah. A preliminary injunction was denied on March 15, 2019 but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay on March 21, 2019 that applies only to the plaintiff. On April 30, 2019, in a divided opinion, the Tenth Circuit denied the motion for a stay. The case is currently pending before the Tenth Circuit on the merits.
Class action for compensationEdit
The Modern SportsmanEdit
Patent infringement suitEdit
Slide Fire Solutions filed suit against Bump Fire Systems for infringement of its patents on bump stock designs in 2014. The suit alleged that Bump Fire Systems infringed eight US Patents, for example, United States Patent No. 6,101,918 entitled "Method And Apparatus for Accelerating the Cyclic Firing Rate of a Semi-Automatic Firearm" and United States Patent No. 8,127,658 entitled "Method of Shooting a Semi-Automatic Firearm". The suit was settled in 2016, resulting in Bump Fire Systems ceasing manufacture of the product in contention.
Survivors of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting sued bump stock patent holder and manufacturer Slide Fire Solutions, claiming the company was negligent and that they deliberately attempted to evade U.S. laws regulating automatic weapons: "this horrific assault would not and could not have occurred, with a conventional handgun, rifle, or shotgun, of the sort used by law-abiding responsible gun owners for hunting or self defense." The suit was dismissed in September 2018; the court determined that the bump stocks of the sort used by gunman Stephen Paddock to commit the murders, were "firearm components" rather than "firearm accessories" and were therefore subject to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a federal law immunizing manufacturers and sellers of firearms from liability for harm "caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse firearm products".
- Machineguns manufactured after 1986 are illegal on the federal level, but pre-1986 ones remain legal in most states and are highly regulated. Since bump stocks were not invented until 2010, all existing supplies effectively become illegal if classified as a machinegun.
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