U.S. Floats Ban on Bump Stocks That Mimic Automatic Firearms

Updated on
  • Making good on Trump demand made after Florida school massacre
  • NRA Friday sued Florida over gun sales ban to young adults
This Bloomberg QuickTake video explains the current battle over gun rights.

The Department of Justice has proposed a ban on “bump stocks,” devices that modify semiautomatic 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. The ban would be achieved by clarifying the definition of “machine gun” under U.S. 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 U.S. history.

Trump’s Order

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 finalized, Jeff, very soon,” Trump said at the time, addressing 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 Friday.

The latest U.S. mass shooting was Friday, when an ex-patient took hostage and later killed three women employees at a treatment program 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,” Trump said on Twitter early Saturday.

NRA’s Opposition

Efforts to address gun violence and school safety through legislation have been piling up in the U.S. Senate since the Parkland shooting, but there are no plans to vote on them. Most of them are modest measures given opposition from the NRA to biggest steps.

“The only way to guarantee bump stocks are banned is to pass a law,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in a statement, adding that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has said it doesn’t have authority to ban bump stocks under the National Firearms Act.

“If Republicans truly wanted to get these dangerous devices off the streets, they would support our legislation,” Feinstein said. “The gun lobby and manufacturers that make millions selling bump stocks and other similar devices will sue to protect their bottom lines.”

(Updates with Feinstein in final two paragraphs.)
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