A Review of "Bump Stock" Bans

In the wake of the mass shooting incident in Las Vegas in October 2017 which killed 58 people, numerous lawmakers and national organizations called for or supported legislation that would ban the firearm accessories known as “bump fire stocks”.

While there was no additional movement on this at the Federal level, the situation looks a lot different from state to state. Massachusetts quickly moved to insert a provision into their state budget bill which amended the definition of a machine gun to add “bump stocks” and “trigger cranks”, but few states have currently passed such a ban into law even while individual cities have moved to do so.

Lawmakers in many other states have introduced their own bills which would make it illegal to possess such devices, though each approach to the subject takes a slightly different angle. Definitions and specific devices that would be banned vary in each case. Some are more expansive, covering any accessory which has the potential to accelerate rate-of-fire. Others only ban a few specific items.

In most cases, possessing the prohibited items would become felonies, but several states would only classify such crimes as misdemeanors. Let’s look at a few specific examples:

Colorado

The city of Denver banned them on January 22nd while the State considered SB 51, which would would classify possession of a 'multiburst trigger activator', defined as "a device that attaches to a semiautomatic firearm and allows the firearm to discharge two or more shots in a burst when the device is activated" or "a manual or power-driven trigger-activating device that, when attached to a semiautomatic firearm, increases the rate of fire of that firearm", identically to possessing a silencer or a machine gun. This crime is a class 5 felony, punishable by up to a $100,000 fine and a possible 3 year jail term.

Indiana

Senate Bill 111 would ban “multiburst trigger activators”, which it defines as (1) A bump stock; (2) A trigger crank; or (3) A hellfire trigger or hellfire trigger assembly. These three terms remain undefined by the law, but violation would be a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Kansas

House Bill 2442 would make possessing “any device or attachment of any kind that is designed, used or intended to be used to attach to a semi-automatic firearm such that bullets may then be fired in rapid succession in a manner that simulates an automatic firearm” a severity level 9 nonperson felony ( see Kansas’ sentencing grid for more info ).

Maryland

Senate Bill 74 would define bump stocks as “any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of an assault weapon but does not convert the assault weapon into a machine gun.” Possessing them would become a misdemeanor, though would be punishable by up to three years in jail or a maximum $5,000 fine.

Nebraska

Legislature Bill 780 uses the term “multiburst trigger activators”, defined as “(a) A device designed or redesigned to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm which allows the firearm to discharge two or more shots in a burst by activating the device; or (b) a trigger-activating device, whether manual or power-driven, that is constructed and designed so that when such device is attached to a semiautomatic firearm the rate of fire of such firearm is increased.” Possession would be a Class IV felony (up to 2 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fines).

This bill would also apply the same penalties to possession of silencers and flash suppressors.

New Mexico

House Bill 17 would create the crime of “unlawful possession of a rate of fire accelerator”, defined as “a person knowingly possessing a firearm accessory or any other device, part or combination of parts that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic firearm”, which would become a 4th degree felony and carry a maximum 18-month prison sentence.

Ohio

Senate Bill 219 would make possession of a “trigger crank, a bump-fire device, or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm but not convert the semi-automatic firearm into an automatic firearm” a 4th degree felony, which also carries a maximum 18-month prison sentence in addition to a possible $5,000 fine.

Rhode Island

There are three versions of Rhode Island’s potential bump stock ban: S2027 , H7075 , and H7163 . All of these could classify the crime as a felony, though no two would impose the same penalties or ban the same objects.

S2027 states that "’Bump stock’ means any device which replaces a semi-automatic weapon's standard stock and is designed to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the weapon's recoil to rapidly fire the weapon” and punishes possession with up to 5 years in prison with a maximum $15,000 fine.

H7075 is much more aggressive, assigning a 1-10 year sentence and a $10,000 fine for possession of any of the following:

  • "Bump fire stock" - any device which replaces a semi-automatic weapon's standard stock and is designed to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the weapon's recoil to rapidly fire the weapon;
  • "Binary trigger" - a semi-automatic weapon's trigger designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger;
  • "Rapid fire device" - any device, part, accessory or attachment designed to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon to include, but not limited to, a bump fire stock, a binary trigger, or a trigger crank; or
  • "Trigger crank” means a trigger actuator that attaches to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and causes the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

H7163 falls in between the other two version, assigning a maximum 10 year jail term and $5,000 fine for possession either:

  • A "bump stock" - any device for a weapon that increases the rate of fire achievable with such weapon by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger; or
  • A "trigger crank" - any device attached to a weapon that repeatedly activates the trigger of the weapon through the use of a lever or other part that is turned in a circular motion; provided that "trigger crank" shall not include any weapon initially designed and manufactured to fire through the use of a crank or lever.

South Carolina

H4424 would ban possession of “a part, component, attachment, device, or accessory designed to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon including, but not limited to, a bump stock or trigger crank” without defining ‘bump stock’ or ‘trigger crank’. Violation would be a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Tennessee

Two identical bills (House Bill 1461 and Senate Bill 1472) would make it a crime “to knowingly purchase, use, possess, or attempt to purchase, use, or possess a trigger crank, bump stock, bump-fire device, or any other part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle but which does not convert the semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.” None of these terms are further defined, but violation would be a Class E felony punishable by between 1 and 6 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $3,000.

Virginia

Senate Bill 676 aims to prohibit “any mechanical device, including a trigger crank or a bump-fire device, that is designed to increase the rate of fire of any semi-automatic firearm to any rate beyond the capability of an unaided person to operate the trigger mechanism of that firearm.” Possessing one would become a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a 12-month maximum jail sentence and a fine of not more than $1,000.

Washington

Senate Bill 5992 seeks to ban “trigger modification devices”, which it defines as “any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended to accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm, but does not convert the firearm into a machine gun, including: (a) Any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended for use in modifying a firearm to use the recoil of the firearm to produce a rapid succession of trigger functions; or (b) Any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended for use in modifying a firearm to produce multiple trigger functions through the use of an external mechanism.” Possessing one would become a Class C felony, punishable by a 5 year jail term and/or a fine of $10,000.

This is not an exhaustive list and these bills may change substantially as they work their way through their respective state legislatures, at least for those that do advance. Make sure you know what’s coming to your state!

Edit 1/23/2018 - Added info about Colorado