The Justice Department has proposed a new rule that would ban the use of bump stocks in a bid to help curb mass shootings — but whether it's a legally sound action is in question.
The announcement was made on Friday as President Donald Trump said his administration would "ban all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns."
But The Washington Post reports that in 2013, the Obama administration found that the National Firearms Act did not give the ATF the power it would need to classify them as illegal.
"Bump stocks 'were not classified as machine guns,' ATF determined, because they were 'unable to convert a weapon to shoot automatically.' Thus, 'ATF does not have the authority to restrict their lawful possession, use, or transfer,''' the Post's Andrew Rudalevige writes in Monday's editions.
"Further, the Trump administration has itself confirmed that reading of the law. On April 6, 2017, the ATF's Michael Curtis wrote that a bump stock submitted for review was 'NOT a machine gun under the NFA.'"
But the new proposal changes ATF's interpretation of "automatic,'' declaring that bump stocks allow a shooter to fire more than one round "by a single function of the trigger."
"What the Trump administration is doing here … may or may not reflect the correct interpretation of existing statute. It will certainly be contested in court — where ATF's past interpretations of the law will not help the administration's case," Rudalevige writes.
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