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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Federal rule could jam state plan to buy up illegal bump stocks

A device called a “bump stock” is attached to a semi-automatic rifle Oct. 4, 2017, at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. The Trump administration is moving to officially ban bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like automatic firearms. A senior Justice Department official said Tuesday bump stocks will be banned under the federal law that prohibits machine guns. It will take effect in late March. (Rick Bowmer / AP)

Making or selling a bump stock, which can make a semi-automatic rifle fire as fast as an automatic rifle, is already illegal in Washington. Owning one of the devices would have been banned in the state next July, but owners could have received $150 to turn them in.

But a decision by the Trump administration to outlaw them nationally starting in March creates a new wrinkle for a part of the state’s bump stock law that was left unsettled by the 2018 Legislature.

When lawmakers banned the sale, manufacture and eventually the possession of bump stocks earlier this year, they approved paying up to $150 to buy back the devices from state residents as soon as the Washington State Patrol devised a plan to handle the logistics.

But they didn’t budget any money for the buy-back, so the plan remains in a “holding pattern,” State Patrol Capt. Monica Alexander said Tuesday.

The WSP has discussed details and possible costs with the governor’s office, to come up with a budget request for the upcoming session. Some of the “intricacies” involve the number and scheduling of locations for buy-backs because the patrol will have at least one of its armorers present to inspect the devices, Alexander said.

A bump stock owner would have to show proof of Washington residency to receive the payment.

The state law allows the WSP to set up the program by June 30 and operate it through the end of the year. But under the changes to federal firearms laws announced Tuesday by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, owning a bump stock will be illegal everywhere in the United States by late March. Under the same law that bans ownership of a machine gun, bump stock owners will be required to destroy the devices or turn them over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The WSP doesn’t know yet what the effect of the new federal laws will be on the buy-back program. “There are a lot of moving parts,” Alexander said.