In a blow to Second Amendment advocates, a federal judge on Monday cleared the way for the Trump administration to move forward with a national ban on bump stocks, the controversial accessory that makes a semi-automatic rifle fire like a fully automatic machine gun.
In a 64-page decision, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich said the plaintiffs, which included the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Coalition and Gun Owners of America, failed to justify their challenge to the ban.
Bump stocks, a once-obscure item, gained attention in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017. The shooter had accessorized a dozen of his 23 rifles with bump stocks, which he used to rapidly fire onto a crowd of festivalgoers from his hotel room window, killing 59 and wounding more than 400 by gunfire.
In March 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted that the Justice Department was planning to ban bump stocks, and it was formalized in a notice issued by then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Dec. 18.
As part of the Monday ruling, owners of the roughly 520,000 bump stocks in circulation in the U.S. now have until March 26 to either destroy them or turn them in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. After March 26, possession of a bump stock will be considered a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000.
The ATF redefined “a bump stock” in order to make the accessories subject to the federal ban on machine guns. Plaintiffs said that Whitaker, who oversees ATF, rushed through the new rules and overstepped his authority.
The Trump administration has generally positioned itself as a friend to Second Amendment groups. As far as bump stocks were concerned, Trump tried to make them an Obama-era issue. During Obama's presidency, the ATF determined that bump stocks were not subject to the federal machine gun ban.
Cover image: Survivors of a mass shooting form a human chain around the shuttered site of a country music festival on the first anniversary, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in Las Vegas. As people were linking arms and holding hands Monday night near the concert site, officials and several hundred others across town listened to bagpipes and the names of the 58 victims being read aloud. (AP Photo/John Locher)