The deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history occurred in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. Within a span of minutes, 58 people lost their lives, and more than 850 others suffered injuries. A primary reason the horrific attack shattered so many lives and families was the gunman’s use of bump stocks on assault rifles, which effectively enabled the guns to fire rounds at a machine-gun pace.
As our nation struggled to absorb the shock of the Las Vegas tragedy, the federal government initiated efforts to prohibit possession of bump stocks nationwide. As of March 26, 2019, the prohibition is in effect. The federal bump stock ban directly affects Nevada gun owners.
While a number of states and some localities have laws prohibiting bump stocks, Nevada does not have a law making them illegal. The federal ban is therefore a new law that affects Nevada gun owners.
A bump stock — also sometimes called by the brand name Slide Fire — is a device that attaches to and enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire nearly as fast as a machine gun. Reportedly, the device was designed to help people with disabilities. Gun owners consider it as a novelty item. Then, the unimaginable events in Las Vegas made clear the dangers inherent in the device.
While bump stocks received little attention before the Las Vegas shooting, the federal government estimates that more than half a million of them were in circulation across the country. There is no data regarding how many may be located in Nevada.
The federal bump stock ban is a regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF). The rule reclassifies bump stocks to fall under the definition of machine gun, which subjects them to a federal law prohibiting private citizens from owning machine guns manufactured after 1986.
This move by the federal government reverses a position taken in 2010 during the Obama administration that only Congress could impose a bump stock prohibition. Following the Las Vegas attack, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice determined a bump stock ban could be imposed under existing law.
The new rule regulates bump stockings as machine guns under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Gun Control Act (GCA). The regulation bans possession of bump stock devices, effectively making sale and manufacture of the devices illegal as well.
The government followed required procedures for proposing and finalizing the regulation. It became final on December 26, 2018. Anyone in possession of a bump stock device had ninety (90) days to comply with the prohibition. The 90-day period expired on March 26, 2019.
The regulation requires bump stock owners to destroy the devices or turn them into the BATF. Instructions on destroying them are available on the BATF website. The method of destruction must “render the device incapable of being readily restored to function.” Owners preferring to turn the devices in to BATF also can locate the nearest field office on the website.
Now that the regulation is in effect, anyone arrested in possession of a bump stock faces a federal felony charge carrying a possible fine of up to $250,000 and/or a federal prison sentence of ten (10) years.
Court challenges to the regulation are pending. To this point, several courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court) have declined requests to delay implementation of the regulation pending resolution of the lawsuits.
Even though the regulation is in place, Nevada Congressional representatives plan to press ahead for passage of a specific law prohibiting bump stocks. While praising adoption of the regulation, Nevada’s lawmakers view a federal law as the only effective method for imposing a ban.
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