A “bump stock” is a device that is placed on semi-automatic guns to ease the two-step process of firing (pulling and releasing the trigger) to one step. In other words, it uses the recoil of the gun to fire repeatedly. Bump stocks create an almost fully automatic weapon out of one that was built to be semi-automatic.
No one paid much attention to these until the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, where the gunman opened fire on the crowd, releasing over 1,00 rounds of ammunition and killing 60. He used a bump stock.
After what is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, many states were quick to ban the devices. Along with that effort, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, signed a memorandum asking the Attorney General to essentially ban anything that takes legal guns into illegal territory, i.e., machine guns.
The result of that action was the clarification of the term “machine guns.” Now, that “includes all bump-stock-type devices that harness recoil energy to facilitate the continuous operation of a semiautomatic long gun after a single pull of the trigger.”
The ban was immediately challenged in court as it wound its way through the appellate process before being struck down by the United States 6th District Court of Appeals court that ruled the Justice Department had exceeded the scope of its authority in issuing the ban. Currently, bump stocks are not illegal in any state since the ruling came down from the appellate court.
In 2021, the Supreme Court justices rejected two separate challenges to the Trump administration’s criminal ban on bump stocks, which means that they are banned federally.
But in each state, there are different laws that applied before the federal ban did. In the event that the federal ban was reversed, bump stocks would be illegal in the District of Columbia and 12 other states, including
Even the most casual of surveys of federal gun legislation will quickly reveal a unique correlation. The first two, The National Firearms Act and the Federal Gun Control Act passed in 1934 and 1968, respectively, both mirrored national angst against gun violence.
The first, The National Firearms Act, passed amidst the explosion of gun violence that began with the infamous 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and that angst did not let up as the likes of John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, and Babyface Nelson blazed a path across the Midwest in daring bank heists and shootouts with the FBI. When questioned, then-NRA president Karl T. Frederick noted before the Congressional committee, “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I do not believe in the general toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”
The subsequent passage of the National Firearms Act did not eliminate the availability of machine guns but rather aimed at taxing and registering the trade to keep the guns out of the hands of those with ill intent.
Three decades later, American society was once again roiled in turmoil. Beginning in 1963 with the assignation of President John F. Kennedy, the further killings of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy two months apart in 1968 led to a further tightening of federal regulations on the sale and ownership of prohibited weapons, including machine guns.
A conservative backlash attempted to claw back gun rights in the early to mid-1980s, and that pressure resulted in the passage of the Firearm Owner’s Protection Act of 1986. Seeking to loosen the reporting requirements of gun owners and gun dealers, the legislation demarcated the legal process by which a person could buy a machine gun. Specifically, machine guns made and on the market prior to 1986 were readily available for sale and resale in the gun market. Albeit their limited availability has seen the cost soar to legally buy these weapons.
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