Massachusetts is taking the lead in the national race to ban bump stocks with both the state House and Senate voting to approve legislation that would greatly restrict the ownership of the firearm accessory.
The House approved its sweeping ban Wednesday followed by the Senate, which unanimously approved a more narrow version Thursday.
“Bump stocks and trigger cranks effectively change the nature of a semi-automatic weapon to make it into a machine gun,” state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said in a statement Thursday.
“There is no legitimate purpose for the use, sale, and possession of these devices or than to cause as much damage as possible,” Rosenberg continued. “Taking this action today protects public safety, provides ample time for residents to comply, and establishes sufficient penalties for violations.”
Under the House version “any device which attaches to a [firearm]…that is designed to increase the rate of discharge” of a firearm would be prohibited.
As the NRA-ILA pointed out, this purposefully vague and open-ended language would leave the door open for bans not only on bump stocks and trigger cranks but also on match grade triggers, muzzle brakes, and other ergonomic modifications.
The Senate version, on the other hand, would exclusively target bump stocks and trigger cranks. And they wouldn’t technically be outlawed, rather they would be regulated as “machine guns” under Massachusetts law.
“The Senate’s bipartisan action means that those who are not appropriately licensed to possess devices that are in effect approximating a machine gun will be in violation of our state’s comprehensive firearms laws,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) said in a statement.
Violators would face 18 months to life in prison for the illegal use and possession of either accessory, according to the Senate bill.
All signs point to some form of this bipartisan legislation passing in the coming weeks. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has already said that he plans to sign it into law.
“Look, that should be outlawed,” Baker told reporters earlier in the week. “And if that were to pass tomorrow, we would sign it.”
Massachusetts is not alone in moving to outlaw bump stocks and trigger cranks. Ohio, Maryland, and Illinois are also considering similar bills. And, of course, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced legislation on the federal level to ban bump stocks nationwide.