In October 2017, 58 people were fatally shot at a country music festival in Las Vegas. The deadliest mass shooting in US history concentrated control over the bump stock, a device that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly.
Bump stocks were banned in the aftermath of the massacre, but sales recently resumed in the Lone Star State. Gun rights advocates are celebrating the news, but those pushing for more restrictions are sounding the alarm.
In January, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Stores in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, within 5th Circuit jurisdiction, can again sell stock, but it’s still illegal in other parts of the country.
Federal regulators ultimately neglected to file a stay to stop the ban being lifted, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Lifting the bump stock ban is “dangerous,” said Nicole Golden, executive director of defense organization Texas Gun Sense. As she sees it, the move “shows [a] total disrespect for the victims and survivors of gun violence who have suffered repeated trauma in mass shootings here in Texas and across the country.
“Put simply, bump stocks allow semi-auto rifles to fire faster, resulting in more deaths and injuries more quickly,” Golden continued via email. “Texas has a long history of responsible gun ownership, and we know that most gun owners support common-sense public safety solutions that balance with 2nd amendment rights.”
After the Uvalde school shooting in May that killed 19 students and two teachers, nearly three-quarters of state voters said they support red flag laws, which allow authorities to take guns from those they believe a threat to themselves or others, according to a poll by the center-left think tank Third Way and GS Strategy Group, a Republican polling firm.
The Lone Star State doesn’t rank high when it comes to the strength of its gun laws, ranking 32nd in the nation, according to advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Texas also sees nearly 3,650 gun deaths annually.
Issued by then-President Donald Trump’s administration, the bump stock ban meant that those who owned the devices had to either destroy them or turn them over to the ATF. The Dallas Morning News reported that about 60,000 units, worth millions of dollars, were destroyed in 2019.
Austin’s Michael Cargill filed a lawsuit against ATF to challenge the ban, which took effect in March 2019.
“Put simply, bump stocks allow semi-automatic rifles to fire faster, resulting in more deaths and injuries more quickly.” – Nicole Golden, Texas Gun Sense
tweet this The ATF argues that bump stocks should fall within the definition of “machine guns,” which are largely prohibited under federal law. Cargill argues that it is only up to Congress to make such a change to the federal statute, not government agencies.
Aidan Johnston, the federal affairs director for the Gun Owners of America, explained the situation to the Observer.
“The 5th Circuit said bump stocks are not machine guns, and you have…an ATF rule that says they are illegal machine guns,” he said. “There’s nothing that says that [rule] is invalid. There’s just something that says the definition they used in the rule is incorrect.
Johnston believes gun owners have a constitutional right to own, sell and manufacture bump stock. However, there hasn’t been an “explicit court ruling under the 5th Circuit that actually codes it as precedent,” he said, describing it as a “legal gray area.”
At this point, the lack of an outright ruling has left gun owners “in the crosshairs of the federal government,” Johnston said. He also introduces a huge question mark for firearms dealers, who under the bump stock ban could face 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine per sale.
However, some pro-gun conservatives supported banning bump stocks. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn recently said that “ordinary sportsmen” and those looking to defend their homes and families aren’t the ones to typically purchase such a device.
“Obviously, we saw in Nevada how it could be used to take the lives of a lot of innocent people,” Cornyn said, according to The morning news. “So I’m concerned about that.”
Shootings remain a problem in Dallas. Over the course of a week in March, at least 13 people were reported to have died from gunfire in the city.