The Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced they have taken the first steps toward determining the legality of the bump stock, a controversial device designed to enable a shooter to achieve a rate of fire approximating full-auto on a semi-auto firearm.

“The Department of Justice has the duty to enforce our laws, protect our rights, and keep the American people safe,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Possessing firearm parts that are used exclusively in converting a weapon into a machine gun is illegal, except for certain limited circumstances. Today we begin the process of determining whether or not bump stocks are covered by this prohibition.”

The press release goes on to say that the ATF has initiated the process by drafting what’s called an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and submitting it to the Office of Management and Budget. The ANPRM is meant to give both the public and industry the chance to submit comments to the ATF about bump stocks to “inform” the ATF’s decision regarding the device.

“We will go through the regulatory process that is required by law and we will be attentive to input from the public,” Sessions continued. “This Department is serious about firearms offenses, as shown by the dramatic increase in firearms prosecutions this year. The regulatory clarification we begin today will help us to continue to protect the American people by carrying out the laws duly enacted by our representatives in Congress.”

The move comes two months after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock shot and killed 58 people and injured over 500 others while firing onto open-air concert-goers from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Out of the 23 rifles found in Paddock’s hotel room, 12 of them were reportedly equipped with bump stock devices.

Bump stocks were approved by the ATF back in 2010.

“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed. In order to use the installed device, the shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand,” the bureau said in its approval letter to bump stock maker Slide Fire. “Accordingly, we find that the ‘bump-stock’ is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.”

Thomas Brandon, the acting director of the ATF, is expected to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he will be fielding questions on bump stocks.

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