States, Cities Ban Bump Stocks; Legal Fight Expected

Two states and two cities have banned bump stocks, and more than a dozen other states have proposals pending. An expert wonders how the ban will be enforced among people who already possess the devices.

After the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, there was a fevered pitch to ban bump stocks, the device that allowed the shooter’s semi-automatic rifles to mimic the rapid fire of machine guns. With that push stalled at the federal level, a handful of states and some cities are moving ahead with bans of their own, the Associated Press reports. Massachusetts and New Jersey — two states led by Republican governors — as well as the cities of Denver and Columbia, S.C., have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices, which were attached to a half-dozen of the long guns found in the hotel room of the shooter who killed 58 people and injured hundreds more attending an outdoor concert. More than a dozen other states are also considering bans on bump stocks.

Gun-control advocates say inaction in Washington is forcing states to take the lead. Gun-rights advocates call it a knee-jerk reaction that will do little to stop bad guys from killing, and vow a legal challenge. The devices were intended to help people with disabilities and were little known until the Las Vegas shooting. They fit over the stock and pistol grip of a semi-automatic rifle and allow the weapon to fire rapidly, 400 to 800 rounds per minute, mimicking a fully automatic firearm. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved the devices in 2010, ruling they did not amount to machine guns. Joyce Malcolm, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, said the bans likely would withstand a legal challenge, but she wonders about more practical matters: How might they be enforced? “I don’t see a real constitutional issue. I just wonder about actually getting these devices out of circulation for people who already have them,” she said.