Trump/Sessions do what even Obama/Holder wouldn't: Move to ban bump stocks

In November 2017, President Donald Trump, who had a record of support for gun control before his latest run for president, directed his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to have the Department of Justice to "review" whether or not bump stocks could be banned through means other the legislation. This "review" was something that had been done twice before by their predecessors, President Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder.

In 2010 the Obama/Holder Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) determined that because bump stocks don't have any moving parts, they are a "firearm part" and could not be regulated as a firearm under existing gun laws. The ATF reviewed the law again in 2012 and reached a similar conclusion.

As Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told PolitiFact, Obama and Holder allowed bump stocks to continue to be sold "not because they liked it, but because the law did not permit them to prohibit it."

Yet now, Trump and Sessions are proposing to do something that even Obama and Holder believed was illegal.

Sadly, while the NRA opposes legislation banning the devices, the organization issued a statement last fall stating "the NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations" (emphasis added) - seemingly opening the door to the exact type of bureacratic rule-making we are seeing now.

Just months after that NRA statement, Trump signed an executive order directing Sessions to get the ball rolling on a bump stock ban. (Never mind all of his campaign criticisms of Obama for legislating by executive order.)

The following press release was issued on Friday, March 23 by the Trump administration:

Attorney General Sessions Announces Regulation Effectively Banning Bump Stocks

Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice is proposing to amend the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, clarifying that bump stocks fall within the definition of “machinegun” under federal law, as such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.

In making the announcement, Attorney General Sessions made the following statement:

“Since the day he took office, President Trump has had no higher priority than the safety of each and every American,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “That is why today the Department of Justice is publishing for public comment a proposed rulemaking that would define ‘machinegun’ to include bump stock-type devices under federal law—effectively banning them. After the senseless attack in Las Vegas, this proposed rule is 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. I look forward to working with the President’s School Safety Commission to identify other ways to keep our country and our children safe, and I thank the President for his courageous leadership on this issue.”

On February 20, 2018, the President issued a memorandum instructing the Attorney General “to dedicate all available resources to… propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.” This NPRM is in response to that direction, and would make clear that the term “machinegun” as used in the National Firearms Act (NFA), as amended, and Gun Control Act (GCA), as amended, includes all bump-stock-type devices that harness recoil energy to facilitate the continuous operation of a semiautomatic long gun after a single pull of the trigger. If the NPRM is made final, bump-stock-type devices would be effectively banned under federal law and current possessors of bump-stock-type devices would be required to surrender, destroy, or otherwise render the devices permanently inoperable. The comment period for the NPRM is 90 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

To view the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking click here.

Please note: This is the text of the Bump Stock Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) as signed by the Attorney General, but the official version of the NPRM will be as it is published in the Federal Register.”
Office of the Attorney General
Press Release Number:
18 - 360

The proposal will undergo a 90-day review period before becoming final. After that, if the rule is made final, bump stock owners who spent their hard-earned money to purchase a legal commercial product will be required to surrender or destroy the devices.

And that, friends, is that. Republicans Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions intend to dictate a ban that even Democrats Barack Obama and Eric Holder knew to be illegal. Does that #MakeAmericaGreatAgain in your eyes?

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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