House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke out on the bump stock issue on Wednesday, urging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to move forward with a regulatory review on the devices.
“We are still trying to understand why the ATF let this go through in the first place,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a press conference. “So, what happened on the regulatory side to allow this to occur in the first place, and that is something that we’re both trying to assess.”
“We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix, and I’d frankly like to know how it happened in the first place,” Ryan added.
The gunman used rifles equipped with the bump stocks to rain bullets down on a country music festival in Las Vegas earlier this month, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Democrats and some GOP members have since filed legislation to ban the devices, which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic full auto fire.
In 2010, the ATF classified bump stocks as attachments and ruled they did not violate regulations in the National Firearms Act or the Gun Control Act.
“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed,” John R. Spencer, chief of the ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch, wrote in a determination letter to Texas company Slide Fire.
“In order to use the installed device, the shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand. Accordingly, we find that the ‘bump-stock’ is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act,” the letter continued.
Since the Las Vegas shooting, the National Rifle Association has said it supports a regulatory review of bump stocks but would oppose legislation aimed to ban the devices. During an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre blamed the ATF for blurring the line between semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons.
“It’s illegal to convert a semiautomatic to a fully automatic. ATF needs to do its job. They need to look at this and do its job,” LaPierre said.
However, Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who last week introduced legislation to ban bump stocks, said further regulations are not enough and that a legislative fix was necessary.
“Regulations aren’t going to do it. We need a law,” Feinstein also said on Face the Nation. “It can’t be changed by another president. Right now we’re seeing one president change actions of a president that came before him, and that would happen in this area. And I hope that Americans will step up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton backed up Feinstein by introducing their own legislation this week that would also ban the devices.