Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed the new rule Tuesday morning, according to the officials - a notable move given the string of legal challenges surrounding the constitutionality of his appointment. Therefore, "persons in possession of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of the devices before the effective date of the final rule", the announcement said.
The move comes almost 15 months after a gunman using bump stocks opened fire from his Las Vegas hotel suite into a crowd at a country music concert below, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.
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"The rule will take effect in 90 days from publication in the federal register", a senior Justice Department official told reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning. Gunman Stephen Paddock rained a hail of bullets from his 32nd-floor Las Vegas hotel room, killing 58 people at a concert. Guns fitted with bump stocks are now legally considered machineguns.
Bump stocks are components, typically made of plastic, that replace standard rifle stocks and harness the firearm's recoil to slide the firearm back and forth onto the shooter's trigger finger, allowing it to fire like an automatic weapon.
The amended rule was met nearly immediately with resistance from gun rights advocates, including Gun Owners of America, which said it would file a lawsuit against the Justice Department and ATF in order to protect gun owners from the "unconstitutional regulations". It is estimated that up to 520,000 bump stocks have been bought by gun owners since 2010.
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It wasn't until the next large mass shooting that Trump directed the Department of Justice to propose a rule change: in February 2018, a former student of a high school in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 students and staff - although his rifle didn't have a bump stock, the rampage sparked up debate around gun control.
Executive director Erich Pratt argued that the ATF and the DOJ have no right to change laws "under the guise of interpretation of a statute, especially where the law's meaning is clear".
The National Rifle Association has not yet issued a response to the ruling, but the Trump administration is reportedly preparing for a lawsuit.
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No compensation will be provided in return for the bump stock. The remaining stock of the devices is now being sold by another company, RW Arms, based in Texas.