The Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas transformed the “bump stock” from a redneck party trick into Public Enemy Number One.
This week Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker took the first shot at the unusual accessory by signing a bill that bans both bump stocks and trigger cranks.
Anyone found selling or possessing either device could face between 18 months and life in prison, and the bill does not include grandfather provisions—there is no legal path to ownership for those devices already in circulation.
“These devices have one purpose, and one purpose only – to kill and to wound as many people as possible in a short period of time,” said Democratic Representative David Linsky in a statement.
“They have no place in civilized society, and today in the Massachusetts House, we took an important step towards strengthening our state’s gun laws and maintaining the safety of our Commonwealth,” he continued.
The National Rifle Association urged its supporters to oppose the bill. They note that the punishment for possessing these devices is “excessive.” Further advising that the Massachusetts legislature should wait until the ATF makes a decision.
“Currently, at the urging of Congress, ATF is reviewing whether its prior determinations regarding bump-fire stocks are correct,” the NRA-ILA said on their website. “Any legislation in this area should wait for this review to be complete so an accurate assessment of the applicable federal law is available.”
Though a bump stock ban isn’t what pro-gun advocates were hoping for, the outcome could have been much worse. The Massachusetts House passed a bill several weeks ago that would have banned any device that “increases the rate of fire” on any rifle, shotgun, or firearm.
As the NRA-ILA pointed out, such language could easily ensnare thousands of unsuspecting gun owners for possessing devices that aren’t primarily designed to increase the rate of fire.
“This broad language could be easily interpreted to ban match grade triggers, ergonomic enhancements, recoil reducing weights, muzzle brakes, and other modifications that countless law-abiding gun owners utilize in order to make their firearms more user-friendly and suitable for self-defense, competition, hunting, and even adapting to physical disability,” they said.
“Many of these modifications simply make it easier to deliver accurate and controlled shots with less physical discomfort for the shooter without fundamentally changing the mechanics of how a firearm operates,” they added.
For now, Massachusetts residents are safe from this kind of government overreach. But at least one bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that bans all devices which “increase the rate of fire.” While this and similar bills are unlikely to pass with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, the 2018 elections could change that paradigm.