- Republican leaders have called for a regulatory solution to bump stock devices from the ATF.
- The ATF has previously stated it does not have the authority to regulate such devices, which allow shooters to fire semiautomatic rifles at a faster rate.
- A new, bipartisan bill would force the ATF to regulate bump stocks.
WASHINGTON — The gun control issue surrounding the regulation or legality of “bump stocks” is not going away, despite little action taken by congressional leaders and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern history in Las Vegas.
Because House Speaker Paul Ryan said the ATF should regulate bump stocks — and the ATF has previously said they do not have such authority — a bipartisan group of lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would force the ATF to regulate bump stocks.
A bump stock is a device that allows sportsmen and shooters to fire semiautomatic rifles at a faster rate without converting the firearm into a fully automatic. The shooter in the Las Vegas massacre has bump stocks attached to at least a dozen of the rifles inside his hotel room.
The new bill amends National Firearms Act, which regulated fully automatic firearms and outlawed new ones made after the law’s implementation. “A reciprocating stock, or any other device which is designed to accelerate substantially the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon” would be added to the books.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee and Dina Titus as well as Republican Reps. Dave Trott and Brian Fitzpatrick, would require individuals purchasing or possessing bump stocks to register with the ATF, submit to a background check, fingerprinting, and pay a $US200 registration fee.
The “Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act” would solve the dilemma of whether the bump stock issue should be fixed by legislative or regulatory action by placing the ball in the ATF’s court, Kildee said in an interview with Business Insider on Monday.
“I understand that there’s this tension between whether or not the ATF has this authority to regulate these things or not,” he said. “My view on this is Congress can end that conversation simply by passing legislation that makes it clear… If there’s any debate whatsoever about whether or not these things are already regulated under the law or theoretically could be considered to be regulated under the law, well let’s take that question away.”
The bipartisan group of lawmakers crafted the bill under “guidance and advice” from the ATF Association, an organisation comprised of more than 400 current and former ATF agents.
There have already been multiple attempts in Congress to ban bump stocks. Reps. Mike Thompson and David Cicilline introduced a bill following the attack in Las Vegas, which was only backed by Democrats. A bipartisan effort by Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat, lost any and all traction once Ryan said he would prefer a regulatory fix as opposed to a legislative one.
Removing the question of whether or not the ATF can regulate bump stocks and similar devices would be an end around to the hurdles the past bills were unable to clear.
Whether the Republican leadership would take up this new bill is still unclear.
“The power of a good idea should prevail and that the common sense aspects of our legislation gives those people, particularly those in leadership who have been saying they wanna do something a way to do it,” Kildee said.
AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokesperson, said, “The Judiciary Committee is looking into this and having discussions with ATF about it.”
But some elements of the bill could face backlash from gun rights advocates. The National Rifle Association has a strict stance against registrations for firearms, saying they do not prevent or solve any crimes. However, the NRA does support background checks for firearm purchases from licensed dealers.
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