Bump stock own­ers un­der the gun

Days be­fore hav­ing to give up de­vices, many re­sent ban

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Nation & World - By Lisa Marie Pane

BOISE, Idaho — David Lunsford is an avid gun owner with a fir­ing range on his Texas spread. With bump stocks about to be banned by the U.S. gov­ern­ment, he grudg­ingly de­cided to sell off his and let some­one else fig­ure out what to do with them.

“If I get caught with one, I’m a felon, and it seems like to me that’s en­trap­ment in the big­gest way. I bought that thing legally with my hard-earned money,” said the 60-year-old Lunsford, who has at one time owned six AR-15 ri­fles that he built from kits, as well as a World War II Ger­man sub­ma­chine gun.

The bump stock — the at­tach­ment used by the killer dur­ing the 2017 Las Ve­gas mas­sacre to make his weapons fire rapidly like ma­chine guns — will be­come il­le­gal Tues­day in the only ma­jor gun re­stric­tion im­posed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in the past few years, a pe­riod that has seen mas­sacres in places like Las Ve­gas; Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.; Or­lando and Park­land, Fla.; and Suther­land Springs, Texas.

Un­like with the decade­long as­sault weapons ban, the gov­ern­ment isn’t al­low­ing ex­ist­ing own­ers to keep their bump stocks. They must be de­stroyed or turned over to au­thor­i­ties. And the gov­ern­ment isn’t of­fer­ing com­pen­sa­tion for the de­vices, which can cost hun­dreds of dol­lars. Vi­o­la­tors can face up to 10 years in prison and thou­sands in fines.

Lunsford bought three bump stocks over the years and wanted to re­coup at least some of the money he

shelled out, but it both­ers him that he and oth­ers have been put in this po­si­tion.

“I’ve never com­mit­ted a crime with it, and just be­cause of that one killer up in Las Ve­gas that used one that killed a bunch of peo­ple, they’re go­ing to make peo­ple pay for it,” he said.

But Shan­non Watts, the founder of Moms De­mand Ac­tion, said: “It was be­cause of bump stocks that the gun­man in Las Ve­gas was able to kill 58 peo­ple from a ho­tel win­dow. It just goes to show the in­cred­i­ble lethal­ity and dan­gers of these ac­ces­sories.”

The pro­hi­bi­tion goes into ef­fect less than two weeks af­ter the mosque shoot­ings in New Zealand that left 50 peo­ple dead. New Zealand’s prime min­is­ter re­acted swiftly to the blood­shed by

an­nounc­ing Thurs­day a ban on mil­i­tary-style semi-au­to­matic firearms and high­ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines.

The U.S. Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives first ruled that bump stocks were le­gal in 2010, and since then, the gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates more than 500,000 have been sold.

They were orig­i­nally cre­ated to make it eas­ier for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to fire a gun. The de­vice es­sen­tially re­places the gun’s stock and pis­tol grip and causes the weapon to buck back and forth, re­peat­edly “bump­ing” the trig­ger against the shooter’s fin­ger.

Tech­ni­cally, that means the fin­ger is pulling the trig­ger with each round fired, a dis­tinc­tion that led the ATF to al­low the de­vices.

They were con­sid­ered by most gun own­ers to be a nov­elty and weren’t widely known un­til a gun­man at­tached bump stocks to sev­eral of the AR-type ri­fles he used to rain bul­lets on con­cert­go­ers out­side his high-rise Las Ve­gas ho­tel room.

The at­tach­ments were swiftly con­demned by even ar­dent gun sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who di­rected the Jus­tice Depart­ment to re­write the reg­u­la­tions to ban them. The im­pend­ing ban was an­nounced in midDe­cem­ber.

Own­ers are be­ing ad­vised to ei­ther de­stroy them by crush­ing, melt­ing or cut­ting them up or set up an ap­point­ment with the ATF to hand the de­vices over.

A week be­fore the ban was set to take ef­fect, bump stocks were be­ing sold on web­sites and by at least one com­pany that took over the in­ven­tory of Slide Fire, the Texas man­u­fac­turer that was the lead­ing maker and has since shut down.

Ryan Liskey, of Vir­ginia’s Shenan­doah Val­ley, said he isn’t sure what to do with his bump stock. He said he got the de­vice as a lark af­ter try­ing it on the range with some friends.

“Do they have au­thor­ity to do this? No. Is it a ma­chine gun? No,” the 30year-old Liskey said. “So do I fol­low an un­con­sti­tu­tional edict from the Depart­ment of Jus­tice or do we stand our ground?”

ATF spokes­woman April Lang­well said “a num­ber of peo­ple” have al­ready turned in their de­vices to ATF of­fices across the U.S., but she wouldn’t say how many. Start­ing this week, a per­son in pos­ses­sion of a bump stock can face fed­eral charges of il­le­gally pos­sess­ing a ma­chine gun.

“We’re go­ing to en­force the law and those in pos­ses­sion will be sub­ject to pros­e­cu­tion,” Lang­well said.

The rule was met al­most im­me­di­ately with re­sis­tance from gun rights ad­vo­cates. A fed­eral judge in Utah re­fused to block it last week, and in Fe­bru­ary, a judge in Wash­ing­ton said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion can move for­ward with it, say­ing it was rea­son­able for the ATF to de­ter­mine a bump stock per­forms the same func­tion as a ma­chine gun. An ap­peals court is set to hear aug­ments in the case on Fri­day.

Gun Own­ers of Amer­ica, a gun-rights group, is among those chal­leng­ing the ban. GOA’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, Erich Pratt, said the mea­sure is an abuse of power and an end run around Congress.

“We think it’s re­ally dan­ger­ous for a reg­u­la­tory agency to be able to just turn on a dime. For 10 years they said that bump stocks fit within the law, they were per­fectly le­gal. And then they re­versed them­selves and said, ‘Oh, this piece of plas­tic is a ma­chine gun,’ ” Pratt said. “If they can do that and wave the magic wand, they can say any­thing is a ma­chine gun. It’s like ban­ning smok­ing by declar­ing cig­a­rettes are sticks of dy­na­mite.”

Gun-rights ad­vo­cates and gun-safety ac­tivists agree on one thing: The ban would have been seen as more ac­cept­able had Congress tack­led the is­sue and en­acted a law, rather than re­ly­ing on a fed­eral agency to do it ad­min­is­tra­tively.


Own­ers of bump stocks, like Ryan Liskey, above, dis­play­ing one mounted on his AR-15, are try­ing to fig­ure out what to do.

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