Over the past nine years, approximately 500,000 Americans, some in Pennsylvania, legally purchased bump stocks, devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to function like machine guns. Following several high-profile mass shooting events, including one in Las Vegas in which a gunman fired a total of 1,100 rounds and killed 59 people, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled in favor of a bump stock ban in December 2018. The ban went into effect on Tuesday, and now it is a felony to own the devices. American bump stock owners now must either destroy them or turn them in to authorities.
Several gun advocacy groups requested emergency stays on the ban from the Supreme Court in an attempt to prevent it from going into effect pending efforts to appeal the ban in court. Groups including the Virginia Citizens Defense League and the Gun Owners of America have alleged that the current administration has violated the separation of governing powers and “created a new crime” in banning bump stocks.
Though Justice Sonia Sotomayor is still considering one of the requests, the other went to Chief Justice John Roberts, who denied it. As of now, the ban remains in effect, meaning that anyone caught in possession of a bump stock is in legal jeopardy and could face serious charges and potential prison time.
It can be confusing for ordinary citizens when the laws change and previously accepted practices become illegal. Those facing charges for possession of a weapon may find it helpful to consult an attorney to see what defense options are available to them.