Friday, July 19, 2024
Firearm legislation and regulations

Bump Stocks Ban: Why Some States Still Prohibit This Controversial Gun Accessory

Bump Stocks Ban: A Deep Dive into Why Some States Continue to Prohibit this Controversial Gun Accessory

The bump stock controversy has been a subject of intense debate in the gun control discourse since the Las Vegas shooting in 2017. This accessory, when attached to a semi-automatic rifle, can mimic the fully automatic firing of a machine gun, causing rapid and repeated shooting. Following this tragic event, the federal government moved to ban bump stocks through a regulatory process. However, some states have taken matters into their own hands by enacting state-level bans. In this deep dive, we will explore the reasons behind these state prohibitions

Reason 1: Public Safety

The primary reason why some states have banned bump stocks is to enhance public safety. Proponents argue that these accessories are dangerous due to their ability to increase the rate of fire and cause mass casualties, as seen in the Las Vegas shooting. By banning bump stocks, states aim to prevent future incidents of gun violence.

Reason 2: Gun Control Policies

Gun control policies

  • Some states have a history of strict gun control measures in place.
  • Banning bump stocks is an extension of their existing policies.

For instance, states like New York and California have long-standing gun control regulations. Banning bump stocks aligns with their overall approach to firearms.

Reason 3: Preemption Concerns

Preemption concerns

  • Some states fear that a patchwork of state laws regarding bump stocks could create confusion.
  • They believe that federal law should govern this issue.

Therefore, some states have refrained from enacting bump stock bans in deference to federal authority.

Reason 4: Legal Challenges

Legal challenges

  • Bump stock bans have faced legal challenges, with some arguing that they infringe on the Second Amendment.
  • These challenges can complicate state efforts to implement such bans.

Ultimately, the fate of bump stock bans will depend on how these legal challenges unfold.


In conclusion, the decision to ban bump stocks at the state level is a complex issue that involves balancing public safety, gun control policies, preemption concerns, and legal challenges. While some states have moved forward with bans, others have taken a more cautious approach. Ultimately, the impact of these state actions will depend on how they hold up in court and whether they influence broader gun control debates.


Bump Stocks Ban: Why Some States Still Prohibit This Controversial Gun Accessory

I. Introduction

Definition of Bump Stocks: A Controversial Device

Bump stocks are firearm accessories that modify the firing mechanism of a semi-automatic weapon, effectively converting it into an automatic or “bump-fire” weapon. Description and Functionality: When the gun is fired, the recoil drives the stock into the shooter’s shoulder, which in turn impacts the trigger and causes another round to be fired. This rapid succession of shots can be achieved without the shooter pressing the trigger for each shot, making it possible to fire hundreds of rounds in a minute. Visual and Mechanical Explanation: Imagine a pistol grip attached to the back end of a stock, with metal protrusions that slide against the shooter’s shoulder while firing. This allows for a constant, rapid movement that impacts the trigger and releases multiple rounds.

Background: Mass Shootings and Controversy

Mass shootings in the United States, such as the 2017 Las Vegas Massacre, have led to a public outcry for gun control measures. One of the controversial devices used in these tragedies is the bump stock. 2017 Las Vegas Massacre: Stephen Paddock, a lone gunman, used multiple rifles equipped with bump stocks to kill 58 people and injure over 800 at a music festival. Public Outcry for Ban: Following the attack, there was widespread demand for a ban on these devices due to their ability to transform legal weapons into automatic firearms capable of causing mass casualties.

Overview of the Article: Focus on States’ Responses

This article will focus on the responses from various states in regards to the regulation and ban of bump stocks following the controversy surrounding their usage in mass shootings. By examining different legislative approaches, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the ongoing debate and the implications for gun control policy.

Bump Stocks Ban: Why Some States Still Prohibit This Controversial Gun Accessory

Federal Regulation and Ban Attempts

Historical Context: The Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986

The Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986 marked a significant milestone in the federal regulation of firearms. Enacted in response to public outrage following the mass shooting at a school in Stockton, California, this law amended several earlier acts and established important provisions that continue to shape firearms regulation today. One of its most notable aspects was the prohibition on certain semi-automatic firearms.

Background and Significance

Before the passage of FOPA, federal law prohibited the manufacture, sale, or possession of semi-automatic firearms with certain features that mimicked fully automatic weapons. These weapons were popularly known as “Saturday night specials.” However, a series of court decisions struck down these provisions as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

Prohibition on Certain Semi-Automatic Firearms

In response, FOPA banned the manufacture, transfer, and possession of certain semi-automatic firearms based on their appearance. This provision is commonly referred to as the “Saturday Night Special Ban.” The law applied to semi-automatic shotguns and rifles with a detachable magazine and at least two of the following features: a bayonet mount, a threaded barrel, a pistol grip, or a forward grip.

Federal Efforts to Ban Bump Stocks (2013 & 2018)

ATF’s Initial Interpretation (2013)

In 2013, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued an open letter stating its position that bump stocks fell outside the scope of the National Firearms Act (NFA). This interpretation meant that bump stocks could be legally sold, possessed, and transferred without NFA registration.

2018 Federal Ban Attempt (Bipartisan Bill S.3275)

Following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2017, there was renewed interest in regulating bump stocks. In late 2018, a bipartisan bill (S.3275) known as the “Bump Stock Ban of 2018” was introduced in the Senate to ban these devices. If passed, this legislation would have required all bump stocks to be destroyed or surrendered to the ATF within 90 days of its enactment.

Current Status of Federal Regulation

Trump Administration’s Decision to Allow Sales (2018)

In December 2018, the Department of Justice under the Trump Administration determined that bump stocks could not be regulated under current law. As a result, sales and possession of these devices were once again legal.

Legal Challenges and Ongoing Litigation

Despite the Trump Administration’s decision, various lawsuits challenging the legality of bump stocks under federal law continue to be litigated. The outcome of these cases could have significant implications for the future of firearms regulation in the United States.

Bump Stocks Ban: Why Some States Still Prohibit This Controversial Gun Accessory

I State Responses: Bans, Regulations, and Lawsuits

States that Ban or Prohibit Bump Stocks

California: Historical Context: California’s gun laws are among the most stringent in the United States. This trend began with the Mulford Act of 1967, which prohibited open carry and required a permit for concealed carry. State Ban on Bump Stocks: In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, California passed Assembly Bill 3118 in 2016, banning the sale, manufacture, and possession of bump stocks.

Maryland: Background: Maryland had already enacted some of the country’s toughest gun control laws. State Ban on Bump Stocks: In 2018, Maryland passed House Bill 391, which banned the sale, manufacture, transfer, and possession of bump stocks.

New Jersey: Historical Context: New Jersey’s gun laws have been progressive, with a ban on semiautomatic assault firearms enacted in 1990. State Ban on Bump Stocks: In response to the Parkland shooting, New Jersey passed legislation banning bump stocks in June 2018.

States that Regulate or Limit Bump Stocks

Delaware: Background: Delaware has seen a trend towards more stringent gun control laws. State Regulations on Bump Stocks: In 2017, Delaware passed House Bill 48, which made it a crime to sell, rent, or possess bump stocks.

Florida: Historical Context: Florida has a complex history with gun laws, with the “Stand Your Ground” law and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting contributing to debates. State Ban on Bump Stocks: In 2018, Florida passed SB 7030, which banned bump stocks.

Recent Court Ruling:

In 2023, a Florida court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

Ongoing Legal Challenges in Various States

Texas: Background: Texas has a strong gun culture and a politically conservative landscape. Lawsuit Challenging State Ban: In 2018, a lawsuit was filed challenging the state’s ban on bump stocks.

Kentucky: Background: Kentucky has a strong tradition of gun rights and individual liberty. Ongoing Legal Challenge to State Ban: In 2018, a lawsuit was filed challenging Kentucky’s ban on bump stocks.
Bump Stocks Ban: Why Some States Still Prohibit This Controversial Gun Accessory


Summary of Findings:

The regulation of bump stocks, a device that can effectively convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones, has been a contentious issue in the United States. This study examined the variability in how states have responded to the federal ban on these devices, which was enacted in 2019. Some states have strictly enforced the ban, while others have taken a more permissive approach or have yet to issue any regulations at all.

Implications for Federal and State Relations:

The findings of this study have significant implications for the relationship between federal and state governments in the area of gun regulation.

Balancing Federal and State Sovereignty:

The tension between federal and state sovereignty in this context highlights the need for a more nuanced understanding of how power is shared in areas where there are competing interests. While the federal government has the authority to regulate firearms under the Commerce Clause, states have a legitimate role to play in protecting their citizens and shaping the contours of gun regulations within their jurisdictions.

Public Safety, Gun Rights, and the Role of the Law:

From the perspective of public safety, it is essential to strike a balance between the protection of individual gun rights and the need to prevent gun violence.

Perspectives from Both Sides:

The debate surrounding bump stocks illustrates the deeply held beliefs and values on both sides of the gun control issue. Proponents argue that the ban is necessary to keep dangerous devices out of the hands of criminals and potential mass shooters, while opponents see it as an infringement on their Second Amendment rights.

Final Thoughts and Future Research Directions:

The study’s findings also shed light on the future direction of gun regulations, both at the federal and state levels.

Emerging Technologies and Gun Control:

As new technologies continue to evolve, it will be essential for lawmakers and policymakers to grapple with the challenges they pose in terms of public safety and individual liberties. For example, the development of 3D-printed guns raises significant legal and ethical questions that will need to be addressed in the coming years.

Long-Term Policy Implications of State Responses to Bump Stocks Ban:

The varying responses to the bump stocks ban also have long-term policy implications. It is essential to monitor how these policies develop over time and assess their impact on gun violence, public safety, and the balance of power between federal and state governments.