Bump Stocks and Trigger Cranks - Attorney Steven J. Topazio
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Bump Stocks and Trigger Cranks

Bump stocks came under scrutiny by the Department of Justice after the October 2017 massacre in Las Vegas. That is following the tragic event where Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel suite onto outdoor concertgoers with rifles fitted with bump stocks, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds of others. Only two states had banned bump stocks prior to the Las Vegas shooting.

Bump stocks or bump fire stocks are gun stocks that can be used to assist in bump firing. Bump firing is the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm or double-action revolver to fire ammunition cartridges in rapid succession, making a semiautomatic weapon fire like a fully automatic weapon.

Trigger cranks are a device that pulls a trigger quicker than a human could, similar to the principle used to fire a Gatling gun.  A trigger crank uses multiple “fingers” to pull a single trigger on a single barrel.

Effective March 26, 2019, a federal ban on bump stocks was announced after the US Justice Department decided that existing prohibitions against fully automatic weapons also covered bump stocks and gave owners 90 days to turn them in or destroy them.

The Department of Justice announced that it:

… is amending the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to clarify that bump-stock-type devices—meaning “bump fire” stocks, slide-fire devices, and devices with certain similar characteristics—are “machine-guns” as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 because such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger. Specifically, these devices convert an otherwise semiautomatic firearm into a machine-gun by functioning as a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that harnesses the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm in a manner that allows the trigger to reset and continue firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter. Hence, a semiautomatic firearm to which a bump-stock-type device is attached is able to produce automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger. With limited exceptions, the Gun Control Act, as amended, makes it unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machine-gun unless it was lawfully possessed prior to the effective date of the statute. The bump-stock-type devices covered by this final rule were not in existence prior to the effective date of the statute, and therefore will be prohibited when this rule becomes effective. Consequently, under the final rule, current possessors of these devices will be required to destroy the devices or abandon them at an ATF office prior to the effective date of the rule. 

Bump stocks now are illegal for almost all US civilians, including Massachusetts residents.  Massachusetts residents should also be aware that as of February 1, 2018, it became illegal to possess “bump stocks” as well as “trigger Cranks”.  According to MGL chapter 140 § 121,  a “Bump stock”, is 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.  According to MGL chapter 140 § 121, a ”Trigger crank”, is any device to be 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, however, that ”trigger crank” shall not include any weapon initially designed and manufactured to fire through the use of a crank or lever. Chapter 140 § 131(o), bans both bump stocks and trigger cranks.