Spanberger Urges Speaker Johnson to Bring Bipartisan Legislation to Ban Bump Stocks to U.S. House Floor for Vote

Mar 25, 2024
Gun Safety
Press

The “Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act” — Which the Congresswoman Cosponsors — Would Ban Bump Stocks & Limit Industry Loopholes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — a Member of the U.S. House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force — joined 67 of her colleagues in urging U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring bipartisan legislation to the U.S. House floor that would codify a ban on bump stocks for civilian use under federal law.

Bump stocks are gun accessories that affix to assault rifles and generate automatic fire with a single trigger pull, allowing a shooter to fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute. These devices were used during the Route 91 Festival shooting in Las Vegas, NV, on October 1, 2017 — which remains the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

In a letter to Speaker Johnson, Spanberger and her colleagues urged the ­­­Speaker to bring the bipartisan Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act to the U.S. House floor for a vote. This Spanberger-backed legislation would codify a federal ban on bump stocks — making it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess bump stocks for civilian use. The bill also limits gun industry loopholes, as it applies to all parts and modifications that similarly increase the rate of fire by eliminating the need for each single function of the trigger.

Their letter comes after the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Garland v. Cargill, a challenge to a 2018 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) rulemaking that deemed bump stocks illegal for civilian use. If the Supreme Court sides with the challenge to the ATF rule, civilian use of these dangerous supplemental devices would again be allowed.

“As you craft the floor schedule for the remainder of the 118th Congress, we urge you to bring forward legislation to permanently codify bump stocks as illegal, as previously established by a Republican Administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) rulemaking,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “This is particularly imperative given the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Garland v. Cargill, that could disrupt the current legal landscape and permit ownership of bump stocks once again.”

Their letter continued, “Additionally, bringing this proposal to the floor would heed the advice of the Fifth Circuit Court in calling for legislative action by Congress, reduce regulatory and judicial jockeying on the matter as has been the case in years past, and keep Americans safe from devices that transform lawful semiautomatic firearms into machine guns — the kinds of firearms that have been illegal for civilian use for decades.”

The letter was led in the U.S. House by U.S. Representative Dina Titus (D-NV-01) and has been endorsed by Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady: United Against Gun Violence, and the Newtown Action Alliance.

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Speaker Johnson,

As you craft the floor schedule for the remainder of the 118th Congress, we urge you to bring forward legislation to permanently codify bump stocks as illegal, as previously established by a Republican Administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) rulemaking. This is particularly imperative given the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Garland v. Cargill, that could disrupt the current legal landscape and permit ownership of bump stocks once again.

On October 1, 2017, a lone gunman used a bump stock at the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history. Using several assault rifles with attached bump stock devices, the shooter took 58 innocent lives and injured hundreds more in a matter of minutes. These attachments affix to assault rifles and generate automatic fire with a single trigger pull, allowing a shooter to fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute. In the weeks following the shooting, Members of Congress from both parties, local officials, and even the National Rifle Association underscored the need to strictly regulate bump stock devices given their ability to transform semiautomatic firearms into machine guns. Multiple bipartisan bills were introduced in Congress and cities and states moved quickly to ban these devices in the absence of immediate federal regulation.

As pressure to ban bump stocks intensified, on February 20, 2018, the Trump Administration directed the Department of Justice to review the legality of the devices. This resulted in the publication of a final rulemaking by ATF that in effect classified bump stocks as machine guns, therefore making these supplemental devices illegal under the existing National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 and the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968. The final rulemaking took effect in March 2019, giving bump stock possessors the chance to destroy or abandon them at an ATF office to avoid criminal penalties.

In order to underscore the pressing need for a permanent, codified ban on bump stocks, it is critical to understand the complex regulatory and legal landscape that has characterized these devices. It is well documented that bump stocks and other supplemental devices are designed to circumvent and evade federal firearm regulations to increase rates of fire. As these devices rose in popularity in the early 2000s, ATF began reviewing bump stocks more closely but found varying interpretations. In 2006, the Bush Administration ATF concluded that certain bump stock devices were machine guns under the NFA and GCA. In a reversal during the Obama Administration, from 2008 to 2017, ATF issued rules that concluded bump stocks were not machine guns under these same laws. These rulemakings issued from 2008 to 2017, however, “did not include extensive legal analysis relating to the definition of ‘machine gun,’ nor the best interpretation of such firearms,” signifying that the finding that bump stocks are not synonymous with machine guns was not a sufficient interpretation in the context of existing laws.

After the 2018 rulemaking banning bump stocks, several owners and gun advocates challenged the ATF rule leading to a split among the federal appeals courts as to whether the regulation is lawful. On one hand, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Tenth and D.C. Circuits upheld the rule. On the other, the en banc Fifth Circuit and a panel of the Sixth Circuit rejected the ATF rule, adding that an act of Congress could define a machine gun to include bump stocks. On November 3, 2023, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the divisive issue and on February 28, 2024, Justices heard oral arguments, with a decision expected later this year.

As you consider legislation for the remainder of the 118th Congress, we strongly urge you to bring forth H.R. 396, the Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act, for a vote to codify a permanent bump stock ban. Notably, this bipartisan legislation would codify the Trump Administration’s ATF regulation on bump stocks, with important carve outs for law enforcement. Additionally, bringing this proposal to the floor would heed the advice of the Fifth Circuit Court in calling for legislative action by Congress, reduce regulatory and judicial jockeying on the matter as has been the case in years past, and keep Americans safe from devices that transform lawful semiautomatic firearms into machine guns – the kinds of firearms that have been illegal for civilian use for decades. Without legislation, the Supreme Court could choose to reverse the ATF rulemaking and make these dangerous devices widely available for civilian use once again. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you to achieve this important objective in the interest of public safety.

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