States, Cities Ban Bump Stocks; Legal Fight Expected

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After the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, there was a fevered pitch to ban bump stocks, the device that allowed the shooter’s semi-automatic rifles to mimic the rapid fire of machine guns. With that push stalled at the federal level, a handful of states and some cities are moving ahead with bans of their own, the Associated Press reports. Massachusetts and New Jersey — two states led by Republican governors — as well as the cities of Denver and Columbia, S.C., have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices, which were attached to a half-dozen of the long guns found in the hotel room of the shooter who killed 58 people and injured hundreds more attending an outdoor concert. More than a dozen other states are also considering bans on bump stocks.

Gun-control advocates say inaction in Washington is forcing states to take the lead. Gun-rights advocates call it a knee-jerk reaction that will do little to stop bad guys from killing, and vow a legal challenge. The devices were intended to help people with disabilities and were little known until the Las Vegas shooting. They fit over the stock and pistol grip of a semi-automatic rifle and allow the weapon to fire rapidly, 400 to 800 rounds per minute, mimicking a fully automatic firearm. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved the devices in 2010, ruling they did not amount to machine guns. Joyce Malcolm, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, said the bans likely would withstand a legal challenge, but she wonders about more practical matters: How might they be enforced? “I don’t see a real constitutional issue. I just wonder about actually getting these devices out of circulation for people who already have them,” she said.

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