DECATUR — A ban on bump stocks, which are attached to semiautomatic firearms so they can fire bullets more rapidly, hasn't brought forth many of the outlawed devices to be turned in to local law enforcement as a ban went into effect Tuesday.
Following a ruling from the Justice Department in December that classified weapons equipped with bump stocks as machine guns, owners were given 90 days to turn them into a local law enforcement agency, a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office or destroy them.
Most law enforcement agencies contacted Tuesday hadn't seen any. Several gun shops also were contacted because they often are used as places to buy, sell or trade firearms and equipment.
Macon County Sheriff's Lt. Jamie Belcher said only one bump stock has been turned in at the downtown Macon County Law Enforcement Center.
Belcher said he could not say if he expects more to be turned in, as he is unsure how many people in the county own the attachments.
Decatur police were not bracing themselves for a sudden influx of incoming bump stocks, either.
Detective Sgt. Steve Carroll isn’t sure how many might be out there, but pointed out he’s never come across one professionally in his 27-year law enforcement career.
“Now, I would be surprised if none showed up,” added Carroll. “But I would not be surprised if it was like very few that get turned in.”
Carroll said he would expect to see one or two over time as older gun owners pass away and their families are going through their possessions and find them.
“Grandpa might be like, ‘Nobody is taking my guns,’ but then the kids find this stuff after he’s gone and think, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ We get ammunition and stuff like that turned in all the time in those kind of situations,” he said.
Carroll said there is probably no way to know how many bump stocks are out there as they were sold as accessories with no way to track sales.
A bump stock attaches to a rifle’s frame and uses recoil effects to bounce the rifle off the shooter’s shoulder and bump the trigger back into the trigger finger. That speeds up the rate of fire because the shooter doesn't need to pull the trigger each time, effectively imitating fully automatic gunfire.
The drive to ban bump stocks picked up steam after the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Authorities said a man killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others while shooting into a crowd of concert-goers from a high-rise hotel room with the aid of a bump stock.
“The risk outweighs the value,” said Illinois State University Police Chief Aaron Woodruff. “I guess there might be an entertainment value with it, such as you might get if you added a big engine to your car, but really, it’s not necessary.”
The state of Illinois has made moves toward tighter gun restrictions as well. Among his first actions after taking office, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation requiring state certification of gun retailers. Pritzker also said he wanted Illinois to outlaw bump stocks and trigger cranks this year, as well as put more money toward social services.
Diane White, a co-leader of the Bloomington-Normal chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the federal ban on bump stocks is a step in the right direction.
"We are thrilled about the bump stock ban, and any measure that saves lives and reduces gun violence, we are happy with," she said.
In 2010, the ATF determined bump stocks were accessories and not regulated as a firearm, but after the Las Vegas shooting, President Donald Trump announced his intention to outlaw them.
The Justice Department estimated that more than 500,000 bump stock devices had been manufactured and sold prior to the ban. But anyone owning one was required to get rid of it following the December ruling.
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The ATF suggests cutting, crushing, melting, or shredding them and has an online how-to guide. Possession of a bump stock is punishable by fines and up to 10 years in prison.
Dan Cooley, owner of The Bullet Trap in Macon, said no bump stocks have been turned into his store. Even if they were, he said, his store probably wouldn't accept the attachments since "we'd have to destroy them, and we've got no way to do that either."
Cooley said that while his customer base doesn't appear to be too "riled up" about the bump stock ban, he still considers it to be an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
"This is one of those things that accomplishes zero," he said. "It's a non-event."
Herald & Review reporters Jaylyn Cook and Tony Reid contributed to this story.