How Will Bump Stock Be Impacted By Legislation?
The overwhelming majority of State legislatures returned to their respective State Capitols this January and wasted no time introducing new firearm legislation and moving forward with carryover legislation. There are well over 3,000 bills pending amongst the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Federal government that in some way, shape, or form impact firearms and ammunition possession, transfer, ownership, and use.
While that number may come as a shock to some, a substantial portion of these deal with issues such as re-defining firearms concealed carry fees and the process to obtain concealed carry licenses, adding duplicative State laws to already-federally prohibited acts (e.g., transferring firearms to a minor, prohibiting persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from obtaining firearms, etc.), adding additional exemptions to firearms legal restrictions for persons such as retired police officers, and adopting statutory language that clarifies that government agencies are, in fact, exempt from assault weapons laws or handgun waiting periods. With that said, there are quite a few anti-gun bills from coast to coast directly impacting consumer firearm ownership that will have upstream effects on retailers, distributors, wholesalers, and manufacturers; some in historically firearm friendly States such as Arizona, Missouri, Tennessee, and Florida.
As most are aware, one of the items currently up for debate nationwide is the lawful manufacture, transfer, and ownership of “bump stocks” or “rate of fire accelerators.” While a ban on these items would seem to be reasonably straightforward (albeit a restriction on firearm parts ownership), many pieces of legislation present problems. Let’s take a look below at a sampling of some of the pending bump fire stock legislation from a variety of states.
|Defines the following as a “Prohibited Weapon”: “A TRIGGER CRANK, A BUMP-FIRE DEVICE OR ANY PART, COMBINATION OF PARTS, COMPONENT, DEVICE, ATTACHMENT OR ACCESSORY THAT IS DESIGNED OR FUNCTIONS TO ACCELERATE THE RATE OF FIRE OF A SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLE BUT THAT DOES NOT CONVERT THE SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLE INTO A MACHINE GUN.”
|This bill prohibits: “any device, component, part, combination of parts, attachment or accessory that: (A) Uses energy from the recoil of a firearm to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated operation of the trigger, including, but not limited to, a bump stock; (B) repeatedly pulls the trigger of a firearm through the use of a crank, lever or other part, including, but not limited to, a trigger crank; (C) causes a semiautomatic firearm to fire more than one round per operation of the trigger, where the trigger pull and reset constitute a single operation of the trigger, including, but not limited to, a binary trigger system; or (D) is constructed, manufactured, designed or intended to mechanically increase the rate of fire of a firearm in any way.”
**This bill was signed by the Governor early in March
|The provision of the bill – signed by the Governor – banning bump-fire stocks effective as of October 1, 2018 defines “bump-fire stock” as a “conversion kit, a tool, an accessory, or a device used to alter the rate of fire of a firearm to mimic automatic weapon fire or which is used to increase the rate of fire to a faster rate than is possible for a person to fire such semiautomatic firearm unassisted by a kit, a tool, an accessory, or a device.”
|House Bill would prohibit: “any device that replaces or supplements, or is designed to replace or supplement, a weapon’s buttstock or pistol grip and enables, or is designed to enable, such weapon to shoot more than six shots by a single function of the trigger or by recoil of the weapon.”
|Prohibits: “a trigger modification device, bump stock or bump fire device, trigger crank, or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic firearm.“
|Prohibits: “A device that simulates automatic gunfire by allowing standard function of a semiautomatic firearm with a static positioned trigger finger or a device that fires multiple shots with the pull and release of the trigger; or A manual or power-driven trigger activating device constructed and designed so that when attached to a semiautomatic firearm it simulates automatic gunfire.”
|This bill would prohibit: “any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended to accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm, but does not convert the firearm into a machine gun, including, but not limited to: (A) any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended for use in modifying a firearm to use the recoil of the firearm to produce a rapid succession of trigger functions; or (B) any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended for use in modifying a firearm to produce multiple trigger functions through the use of an external mechanism”
|This bill provides that it is a violation of the unlawful use of weapons statute to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in this State, a trigger crank, a bump-fire device, or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle but does not convert the semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.
|This bill would ban: “any device that directly or indirectly depresses, operates, or pulls the trigger of a firearm at a rate or speed that is greater than the rate or speed of unaided, successive trigger depressions, operations, or pulls. The term includes the following: (1) A bump stock (2) A trigger crank (3) A hellfire trigger or hellfire trigger assembly.”
|Provides that is criminal use of a weapon to possess: “any device or attachment of any kind that is designed, used or intended to be used to attach to a semi-automatic firearm such that bullets may then be fired in rapid succession in a manner that simulates an automatic firearm.”
|This bill bans: “Any device for a weapon that increases the rate of fire achievable with such weapon by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger; Any device to be attached to a weapon that repeatedly activates the trigger of the weapon through the use of a lever or other part that is turned in a circular motion, not including any weapon initially designed and manufactured to fire through the use of a crank or lever”
|This bill would restrict: “a part, component, attachment, device, or accessory designed to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon including, but not limited to, a bump stock or trigger crank.”
This would restrict: “a trigger crank, bump stock, bump-fire device, or any other part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or
functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle but which does not convert the semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.”
|This bill prohibits: “a butt stock designed to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm and intended to increase the rate of fire achievable with the firearm to that of a fully automatic firearm by using the energy from the recoil of the firearm to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates the repeated activation of the trigger.”
As you can see, some bills are drawn more narrowly than others, while several bills contain more ambiguous language. For example, what exactly is a “part…that functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but that does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun”? What is a device that ‘indirectly’ operates the trigger at a speed greater than the rate of unaided trigger operations? What is the logical end of the language “a part designed to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon”? As we have seen throughout history, what a Legislature intends for legislation to allow or prohibit is not necessarily what a court in that State will view that language as allowing or prohibiting.
Do these include trigger assembly upgrades? Could a court interpret them to include an upgraded bolt carrier? If presented the same exact language, what would a court do in Massachusetts vs. a court in, say, Arizona? These are questions to which the public has yet to have full insight.
The listing above is not all inclusive of all currently pending “bump stock” or “rate of fire accelerator” bills. Many States above have additional bills pending that address the same topic, and other states, such as Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington, among others, have similar bills pending.
As with any new item of firearms legislation there is likely to be uncertainty. All Federal Firearms Licensees should be cognizant of pending and adopted legislation in their State that restrictions firearms, ammunition, or accessories, and if they remain uncertain on permissible items should reach out for assistance from their State authorities, a qualified firearms industry expert, or an attorney.
On Friday, March 23, 2018, Attorney General Jeff sessions announced that the Department of Justice is starting the rulemaking process to include bump fire stocks within the definition of “machinegun” under federal law. Should bump fire stocks fall within the purview of that definition, it would effectively ban all such stocks as they are all manufactured Post-86.
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