Only 2 bump stocks voluntarily turned in as ban takes effect
Only two bump stocks were voluntarily turned in to police before a new law banning them came into force on Oct. 1.
Anyone found with bump-fire stocks, a device that attaches to semi-automatic rifles to make them fire like machine guns, faces up to a year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
Police have declined to estimate how many of the devices might be in circulation in the state.
Vermont State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman said Thursday that people could still turn in bump stocks to police barracks across the state, but he advised they call in advance to avoid any issues arising on the way.
"We certainly don't have any plan to arrest someone who's coming to a barracks to turn in a bump stock, but again we can't say what other law enforcement agencies might do," he said.
Silverman said police were focused on compliance with the law, and expected that the ban would mostly come into play when they respond to or investigate other incidents.
"I think if people are worried about there being bump stock seizure forces moving about throughout Vermont, I don't think that's something they need to worry about," he said.
Vermont's seemingly limited compliance with the ban is not unique. In New Jersey, not a single person surrendered a bump stock device before a similar law took effect there. In Massachusetts, three devices were given to police.
Chris Bradley, head of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said that people were generally not inclined to abide by laws that infringed on their constitutional right to bear arms.
When Connecticut and New York passed laws requiring registration for assault weapons, studies estimated that a small fraction of owners registered their firearms, possibly leaving more than a million people outside the system.
"When confronted with a law they felt infringed on their rights, they too willingly became felons," Bradley said of New York residents.
The law banning bump stocks in Vermont, Act 94, also banned high-capacity magazines. However, for magazines, people can keep devices that they owned before the law came into force.
In both cases, the law means that the devices can't be sold or exchanged in Vermont. That makes Vermont a safer place, said Clai Lasher-Sommers, executive director of GunSense Vermont.
"Every state that enacts new laws makes it a safer nation," she said.
Lasher-Sommers said that police seemed to be doing everything they should be doing to enforce the measure putting out a statement a few weeks ago asking people to turn in bump stocks.
"I think we have to wait and see how much more they can do, in what kind of ways they can do PR around this, but I think they have shown a good faith effort," she said.
Bradley said he expected federal authorities would soon follow through on plans to reclassify bump stocks, making them illegally produced machine guns, and making possession of them a felony across the country.
"The handwriting is on the wall," he said. "What's happening with the bump stock ban in Vermont will be moot because the feds will take care of it."
Lasher-Sommers said she wasn't holding her breath.
"If the federal government does something to make it moot, well that would be lovely," she said, "but I just can't see that happening right away."
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