The Maryland General Assembly moved to ban bump stocks Thursday, bringing the state one step closer to outlawing possession of the device used in October’s Las Vegas massacre.
The bill, which was introduced by Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery) in February, would outlaw the manufacture, possession and selling of devices like bump stocks, which are more broadly known as rapid-fire trigger activators. The legislation also includes devices called binary trigger systems, burst trigger systems and hellfire triggers, all of which make guns fire more quickly.
The purpose of a bump stock is to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon to that of an automatic weapon.
The House passed the bill by a 128 to 7 margin in March and the Senate did the same last week by a vote of 35 to 11. It is one of three bills regarding gun control recently passed by the legislature and currently headed to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk to be reviewed. The other two restrict firearm access for individuals convicted of domestic violence or presenting other “red flags,” such as threatening violence.
Hogan has expressed support for all three bills.
The bump stocks bill is one of the strongest of its kind, said Jen Pauliukonis, the president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun violence prevention advocacy group. It will extend to not just bump stocks, but to all rapid-fire devices.
“There are already [gun] manufacturers that are trying to figure out new devices that work around any sort of limited law that only bans bump stocks or trigger cranks,” Pauliukonis said.
Bump stocks were attached to several of the weapons used by shooter Stephen Paddock in the massacre of 58 Las Vegas concert-goers in October.
More than 400 others were injured in the gunfire, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The bill, along with similar legislation recently passed in Florida, is nothing more than a symbolic gesture, said Dave Workman, the senior editor at TheGunMag.com, the official gun magazine of the Second Amendment Association, a gun rights nonprofit.
“When you ban an accessory that’s really only been used in one high profile crime [like the Las Vegas shooting], I’m not sure if that’s going to solve anything,” he added.
Andrew Johnston, a senior philosophy major at the University of Maryland, said he is in favor of the bump stock ban legislation but added it might be a way to appease those who are seeking immediate changes to gun control laws.
“[The bill] seems like for people who want to have something happen now and then [legislators] are hoping people will forget about it and move on,” Johnston said.
“In a lot of cases with legislation, it’s more of a knee-jerk reaction to show the public they care about the issue,” he added.
Two other gun violence bills passed on the final day of the General Assembly’s legislative session on Monday.
A “red flag” bill authored by Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s), would permit judges to suspend an individual’s right to possess a gun for a maximum of one year if they are reported for threatening violence against themselves or others. The period can be extended by six months at the judge’s discretion.
Another piece of legislation introduced by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard) would force individuals found guilty of domestic abuse to give up their firearms.
The passing of these three pieces of legislation are not the end of the effort to prevent gun violence, Pauliukonis said, adding that urban gun violence and gun suicides are other issues that must be tackled in the future.
“Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence is proud that our Maryland leaders are prioritizing all types of gun violence and passing different laws that are going to save lives,” she said.