Attorney General Proposes Rule to Ban Firearm Bump Stocks

(Bloomberg) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday formally proposed a ban on bump stocks, the firearms accessory that allows semi-automatic guns to fire more quickly, similar to a fully automatic weapon.

The proposal seeks to fulfill a promise made by President Donald Trump after the Feb. 14 massacre at a Florida high school and comes a day before a protest march in Washington organized by survivors of the Florida shooting.

Previously an obscure gun accessory, bump stocks became infamous after the device was linked to the Las Vegas concert massacre on Oct. 1. The gunman owned multiple such devices, law enforcement authorities said. Fifty-eight people were killed in the attack, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“After the senseless attack in Las Vegas, this proposed rule is a critical step in our effort to reduce the threat of gun violence that is in keeping with the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress,” Sessions said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with the president’s School Safety Commission to identify other ways to keep our country and our children safe, and I thank the president for his courageous leadership on this issue,” he said.

Sessions’s proposal involves amending Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives regulations that would categorize bump stocks under the federal definition of a machine gun. Trump signed an order on Feb. 20, less than a week after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, directing the Justice Department to make the change.

‘BAN All Devices’

The president hailed the announcement Friday on Twitter. "As I promised, today the Department of Justice will issue the rule banning BUMP STOCKS with a mandated comment period," Trump wrote. "We will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns."

After the Parkland killings, the president and congressional leaders demanded solutions to gun violence. Congress voted Friday to bolster background checks for gun purchases, spend more on school safety, and let the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study gun violence, ending what was in effect a 22-year ban that was supported by the National Rifle Association. But more far-reaching gun control proposals didn’t advance.

The comment period for the amendment is 90 days. After Trump’s announcement in February, prices of bump stocks rose on firearms auction platforms.

Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement, "We welcome a DOJ regulation. We will be ready to defend this regulation if and when, as we expect, the gun lobby challenges it in court.”

Opponents of gun control quickly reacted to Session’s announcement and to new regulations passed by Congress this week. “After signing an anti-gun omnibus bill today, Trump gives another slap in the face to gun owners,” Jordan Stein, a spokesman for the Gun Owners of America, said on Twitter.

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