AP NEWS

GUN CONTROL Will ban really get rid of bump stocks?

March 30, 2019

The number of bump stocks surrendered to local authorities — and whether the items will ever be destroyed — remains unclear days after a federal ban took effect.

A representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Beaumont field office said owners of bump stocks were directed to surrender the accessory to their local office. Officers are locking the items in an evidence safe while pending litigation against the regulation is hashed out.

“We just take them in, ask the owner to fill out the paperwork and give them a receipt for the surrender,” the representative said. “We make sure to collect their information in case they are to be returned.”

The Beaumont ATF office is located at 2615 Calder Ave.

The accessory commonly known as a bump stock, originally designed for gun enthusiasts with disabilities, comes in different designs, but ultimately uses a gun’s recoil to allow for multiple shots with a single trigger pull. The Justice Department’s regulation change declared that bump stocks change semiautomatic guns into fully automatic ones, making them illegal under existing laws.

After President Donald Trump’s directive to the ATF to change the classification of bump stocks took effect Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it wouldn’t strike down the ban. The lobbying group Gun Owners of America argued that the Trump administration had overstepped its bounds by using federal laws made for automatic weapons to ban an accessory.

Under the regulation, Americans who own bump stocks have 90 days to destroy their devices or surrender them to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Other lawsuits from individuals are still progressing through the courts, such as one central Texas gun rights activist Michael Cargill announced Monday. Cargill said the ruling was unconstitutional since Congress reserves the right to define lawful and unlawful activity.

In Beaumont’s gun shops, there has been little talk about the ban since it went into effect, but that isn’t surprising to one of the city’s gun sellers.

Austin Cowart, owner of The Smoking Gun, said he hasn’t had a single customer ask about what to do with their bump stocks, but most gun owners know to stay educated on what is allowed and what isn’t.

“If you are a gun owner, you are responsible for knowing what the current laws are,” Cowart said. “If something is deemed illegal, you are responsible for knowing and choosing if you follow that.”

Cowart said his shop never stocked bump stocks, mostly because they were an unregulated accessory most gun enthusiasts could cheaply purchase through online shops, but he didn’t personally agree with the ruling.

“We don’t agree with the ruling, but we do respect the rule of the law,” Cowart said. “We do hope our judicial system will have a chance to review it.”

Even if customers had asked about the item, Scott Brown at JJ’s Pawn said he wouldn’t have much information to provide. Brown said the shop heard about the ruling when it made it into the headlines.

“We didn’t get any notice from ATF beforehand or anything,” Brown said. “We just knew it was being talked about.”

Brown said his shop also didn’t stock the item, especially since it came under federal scrutiny. He said it wasn’t really a popular item until public outcry for a ban rose in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.

“There was enough hype about it, but it isn’t something you would want in your store,” Brown said. “If you had 10 of them in your store, you didn’t want to have to eat that inventory cost.”

In Washington, state police facilitated a state sponsored buyback program that compensated 1,000 bump stock owners at $150 a piece before the program’s budget was depleted. It was the only state to offer a program or become involved in the enforcement of the ruling.

Some social media posts directed bump stock owners to turn their items into local law enforcement, but officials in Beaumont and Jefferson County said they haven’t been given any directives to accept bump stocks.

“We haven’t seen anything come across from ATF like emails with directives or anything like that,” said Marcus McLellan, public information officer for Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Carol Riley, public information officer with the Beaumont Police Department, also said the department hadn’t received any information about the surrender of bump stocks.

Information about the federal ruling and ways to dispose of bump stocks is available at atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/bump-stocks.

jacob.dick@beaumontenterprise.com

Twitter.com/jdickjournalism