Nearing Las Vegas shooting anniversary, Justice Department moves ahead on bump stock ban

The rule would ban the manufacture, importation and possession of bump stocks.
A bump fire stock that attaches to a semi-automatic assault rifle to increase the firing rate is for sale at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah, on Oct. 4, 2017.George Frey / Reuters
By Pete Williams

As Las Vegas prepared to honor those killed in last year's shooting massacre at a country music festival, the federal government moved ahead Monday with plans to ban an accessory that investigators said gave the gunman extra firepower.

The Justice Department confirmed that a proposed rule to ban bump stocks was sent late last week to the Office of Management and Budget for review. After a review that could last up to 90 days, the proposal will be published in the Federal Register, inviting public comment.

It would ban the manufacture, importation and possession of bump stocks. Once the rule becomes effective, anyone owning one would be required to destroy it.

Bump stocks figured prominently in the Las Vegas shooting. A report issued in January by Las Vegas police revealed that Stephen Paddock, who carried out the massacre, had 22 semi-automatic rifles with him in the hotel room overlooking the concert, and 14 of them were equipped with bump stocks. They allow a rifle to work almost like a machine gun, firing continuously with a single pull of the trigger.

Bump stocks work by altering the relationship between the trigger finger and the weapon. Without a bump stock, the rifle remains stationary and the trigger finger must be moved to fire a round. With a bump stock, once the firing begins, the weapon moves and the finger remains stationary.

President Donald Trump urged the federal government to ban them in the spring. The Justice Department moved quickly to draft the proposed rule, one that Attorney General Jeff Sessions called "a critical step in our effort to reduce the threat of gun violence that is in keeping with the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress."

The National Rifle Association indicated that it will not fight the proposed ban.

"Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," the group said when the restrictions were proposed.