In a rare move, President Trump has directed the Justice Department to craft regulations that would ban all firearm modifiers that “turn legal weapons into machine guns.”
The ban would include the “bump stock,” a plastic or metal device that enables a legal, semi-automatic gun to fire hundreds of rounds per minutes. Authorities found 12 bump stocks in the hotel room of the gunman who killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas last October.
The ATF in 2010 (during the Obama Administration) deemed bump stocks legal because, being “firearms components” and not machine guns, they fall outside the scope of federal gun rules.
“Although the Obama Administration repeatedly concluded that particular bump stock devices were lawful to purchase and posses, I sought further clarification of the law restricting fully automatic machine guns,” wrote Trump Tuesday in a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump’s push for the ban on bump stocks follows the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, where a former student used an AR-15-style gun to kill 17 innocent people.
Given that a regulation change on bump stocks would probably be challenged in court, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and other Democrats are urging Trump to support legislation in Congress rather than implementing the changes himself. “Legislation is the only answer,” said Feinstein.
Trump has also expressed support for tightening background check policies. “Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!” he tweeted on Tuesday.
On Monday, the White House said Trump supports a bill that would require greater compliance with a federal database in order to prevent individuals with criminal records from purchasing weapons.
“It does feel like we have a shot at getting a little bit of momentum on background checks,” said Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA), who spearheaded an effort to expand background checks following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Toomey says he plans to introduce new legislation on background checks in the coming weeks.
Other ideas being considered include: upping the minimum age for purchasing a semi-automatic weapon from 18-21, increased screening to keep guns away from the mentally ill, and trained armed guards in more schools.
On Wednesday, President Trump will host a “listening session” with parents, teachers, and students affected by school shootings in Florida, Connecticut, (Sandy Hook), and Colorado (Columbine). “We can do more to protect our children,” said Trump. “We must do more to protect our children. We’re working very hard to make sense of these events.”
On Thursday, he will host a meeting with law enforcement and other officials to discuss ways to prevent gun-related violence.
“We must move past cliches and tired debates, and focus on evidence-based solutions and security measures that actually work and that make it easier for men and women of law enforcement to protect our children and to protect our safety.”
Author’s Note: Trump’s support for gun control legislation is a symbolic response to recent tragedies, but the move threatens to upset members of his voter base, including the NRA, which spent $30 million supporting his presidential candidacy.
“The NRA’s stance on this issue hasn’t changed,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker. “Fully-automatic weapons have been heavily regulated since the 1930’s. But banning semi-automatic firearms and accessories has been shown time and again not to prevent criminal activity and simply punishes the law-abiding for the criminal acts of others.”
Furthermore, a bump stock ban would be a victory that Democrats could use to their advantage in the future. In the current political environment, it is not a good idea for President Trump to give up anything on the gun front.
On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Florida House of Representatives rejected a proposal to consider a ban on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines.