Just days after the tragedy in Las Vegas, the call went out from the media, members of Congress and even the NRA, to ban the bump stock, an accessory that uses the energy of a rifle’s recoil to activate the trigger mechanism at a high rate of speed, similar to that of an automatic weapon.
Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) suggested the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) look at regulating bump stocks as a “quick fix.” Several Republican Senators signed a letter to the ATF requesting that agency to review its position on the device, hoping the agency would regulate the devices and prevent the lawmakers from having to vote for a gun control measure.
At the same time, several members of Congress introduced or co-sponsored various pieces of legislation to ban bump stocks.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) reintroduced the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of bump stocks and similar devices. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the House version of Feinstein’s bill.
On at least two previous occasions under the Obama Administration, the ATF reviewed bump stocks to determine whether they fell within the purview of the AF’s regulatory authority. The ATF adopted the position they don’t.
The ATF had written letters in 2010 and 2013 explaining how the Gun Control Act (1968) and National Firearms Act (1934) do not provide a way for the bureau to regulate bump stocks. The ATF has the authority to regulate automatic weapons, defined as firearms that are designed to discharge more than one round with a single pull of the trigger. Bump stocks do not fall within that definition as they still only allow for a single round to be discharged with each separate pull of the trigger, albeit at a high rate of speed.
In its April 2013 letter to Rep. Ed Perlmutter, ATF Assistant Director for Public and Governmental Affairs Richard Marianas wrote:
“We remain committed to the security of our Nation and the fight against violent crime. However, bump-fire stocks that do not fall within any of the classifications for firearm contained in Federal law may only be classified as firearms components. Stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of Federal firearms statutes. Therefore, ATF does not have the authority to restrict their lawful possession, use, or transfer.”
At a briefing before Congressional leaders last week, the ATF again reiterated it does not have the authority to reclassify and regulate the devices. That, the ATF argued, falls upon the lawmakers to craft legislation to accomplish a ban or to enable the ATF to regulate bump stocks in much the same manner as it regulates automatic firearms.
It is a legislative issue, not an administrative one, best left to members of Congress to address according to the position taken by the ATF.
As it now stands, the furor over bump stocks seems to have waned and the urgency to do something to ban the devices no longer appears pressing to lawmakers.