US Justice Department proposes ban on 'bump stock' modification for semi-automatic rifles on Trump's orders

A bump stock installed on an AK-47.
A bump stock installed on an AK-47.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - The US Department of Justice has proposed a ban on "bump stocks", devices that modify semi-automatic rifles to allow them to be fired more rapidly, making good on a promise by President Donald Trump after last month's massacre at a Florida high school.

The agency submitted its proposal to the Office and Management and Budget, it said in a press release on Saturday (March 10). The ban would be achieved by clarifying the definition of "machine gun" under US law.

"President Trump is absolutely committed to ensuring the safety and security of every American and he has directed us to propose a regulation addressing bump stocks," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement.

The move comes as the gun control debate continues to rage after the assault at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb 14.

That shooting ignited fresh calls for restrictions on guns, especially AR-15-style rifles like the one used to kill 17 people at the Florida school.

The suspect in that shooting didn't use a bump stock, although the accused sniper in a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October used such a device in an attack that killed more than 50 concert-goers - the deadliest massacre in modern US history.

Mr Trump signed an order on Feb 20 directing the Justice Department to make the change, which the OMB must approve before it's published and opened up to public comments.

"I expect that these critical regulations will be finalised, Jeff, very soon," Mr Trump said at the time, addressing Mr Sessions during an event at the White House.

The DOJ's move comes a day after the National Rifle Association sued Florida over legislation that bars people under 21 years old from buying firearms, hours after Governor Rick Scott signed the Bill into law on Friday.

The latest US mass shooting was on Friday, when an ex-patient took hostage and later killed three women employees at a treatment programme located within a home for military veterans in Yountville, California.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation in Yountville and mourn the loss of three incredible women who cared for our Veterans," Mr Trump said on Twitter early on Saturday.