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Many people first heard the term bump stocks after the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017. The gunman used the devices to fire his rifles faster - almost as fast as illegal machine guns. In December, the Trump administration announced a regulatory ban on bump stocks after a three-month grace period. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the sellers and buyers of bump stocks are making use of that extra time.
MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Texas-based RW Arms is one of the best-known sellers of bump stocks. And if you go to their website right now, you'll see they have a countdown clock to March 26. That's the day this ban actually takes effect. They're also putting that countdown in their marketing emails, encouraging their customers to buy bump stocks while they still can.
JONATHAN LOWY: It's remarkable and outrageous.
KASTE: That's Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. He's co-counsel on a post-Las Vegas lawsuit against the makers and sellers of bump stocks.
LOWY: Not only do they keep on selling them, but they're apparently using their illegality to try to sell more of them.
KASTE: To be clear, under federal law, bump stocks are not yet illegal. That happens on March 26 when it will become a felony to own one, even one that was bought legally right now during this 90-day period. Former ATF officials say this is an unusual situation, the fact that the government is allowing dealers to keep selling devices that their customers will soon be required to give up. But the question is, when that deadline comes, will they give them up?
TIM HARMSEN: (Laughter) Well, if you're asking me if I'm going to break the law, of course, I'm not going to go on national radio and say I'm going to break the law, nor would I tell other people to break the law.
KASTE: Tim Harmsen owns a bump stock. He's a firearms expert in Indiana. He has a YouTube channel and a following on social media. He says gun enthusiasts are not happy about this ban, and some of them may resist it.
HARMSEN: We have all sorts of people, historically, when things like this happen that just turn to peaceful noncompliance. And I think you may see some of that as well in our community.
KASTE: But Harmsen hopes it won't come to that. He's a plaintiff in one of a handful of lawsuits against the federal ban. They generally accuse the ATF of improperly reversing its earlier rulings, which had allowed bump stocks. They also object to the government effectively confiscating property without compensating the owners. Bump stocks cost about $200. Harmsen's suit was filed by a group called the Gun Owners of America. Lawyer Rob Olson says they're hoping for a preliminary court order that would put the ban on hold and take some of the pressure off people who are trying to decide what to do with their bump stocks.
ROB OLSON: ATF has given 90 days here to either turn in your bump stock or smash it with a hammer and throw it away. And every day that we tick closer to 90 days, the average gun owner, you know, is going to not want to run the risk.
KASTE: About a half-million bump stocks have been sold since 2010, mostly as novelty items. There's no way to know how many of them are still out there or how many have been disposed of. In states that had earlier bans, police say relatively few bumps stocks were ever turned in to them. And as to RW Arms, the company would not do an interview about its countdown sale. But in an email to NPR, it said, quote, "certainly, there are customers who are disappointed with the move to ban bump stocks. However, we do not have any indication as to what they will do should the ban take effect on March 26 as planned. RW Arms will fully comply with the law, and we are prepared to direct our customers to do the same" - unquote. Martin Kaste, NPR News.
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