By David Higham.
After nearly a full year of review, the US Justice Department (DOJ) has issued a final rule to prohibit the manufacture, sale and ownership of bump stocks and similar devices.
A bump stock is an accessory that when affixed to a semi-automatic rifle, uses the rifle’s recoil action to simulate the rapid fire of a machine-gun. Bump stocks were used by a single shooter to kill or injure many hundreds of people attending a concert on the Las Vegas strip on October 1, 2017.
While the banning of bump stocks is welcome, the Department’s final rule offers little hope that many of these existing devices actually will be removed from our communities.
There are an estimated 400,000 to 520,000 bump stocks presently in circulation. As it did when the draft rule was first proposed many months ago, the DOJ’s final rule expects bump stock owners to police themselves and voluntarily turn in or physically destroy their own personal property – all without any compensation from the federal government.
Don Kohn, HCDP Chair, wrote to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (agency responsible within the Department of Justice) last May when the public was invited to comment on the proposed rule. He suggested the Final Rule establish demonstration buy-back programs to provide financial incentives for bump stock owners to turn in their devices.
Unfortunately, the final rule does none of that.
DOJ does acknowledge that it did receive several suggestions for buy-back programs to reduce the number of devices, but concludes “the Department does not have the necessary Federal appropriations to implement a buy-back program or offer monetary compensation. To implement a buy-back program or provide a tax credit would require congressional action.”
In the year since the Las Vegas tragedy, several states enacted their own laws banning bump stocks and have asked owners to turn them in to state officials – also without compensation. Reports indicate that these state programs have produced very few bump stocks.
Clearly the Trump Administration had the opportunity to do something substantive in this area. But the final rule that was issued has little chance of removing these dangerous devices from our communities unless accompanied by an aggressive buy-back program.
So, in effect, the Trump administration has issued an order intended to mollify those who seek sensible gun control regulations, but in reality, that order is little more than a press release that will have little practical impact.
David Higham chairs HCDP’s Gun Sense Committee.