President Donald Trump said Tuesday he directed the Department of Justice to propose regulations for a bump stock ban.
The announcement comes nearly five months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history left 58 dead and more than 500 people wounded on the Las Vegas strip. Federal investigators discovered a dozen rifles modified with bump stocks in the accused gunman’s hotel room last October, spurring a public outcry over the once-obscure modification devices, known for increasing the rate of fire.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register in December, seeking public comment from manufacturers, retailers and consumers about bump stocks and similar devices. The public comment period closed Jan. 25.
As a result of the ATF process, Trump said he signed a memorandum Tuesday directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to craft regulations “to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.”
“The key in all of these efforts … is that we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,” he said Tuesday while hosting the Public Safety Medal of Valor Awards Ceremony in the White House East Room. “We must actually make a difference. We must move past clichés 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.”
It’s the second reversal in the administration’s lax gun policy stances since the Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida killed 17 and wounded more than a dozen others. White House officials said Trump met with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn on Friday about his bill strengthening federal background checks before spending the weekend visiting survivors in Florida.
When he returned, Trump reportedly expressed possible support for the bipartisan backed Fix NICS Act. He also reiterated school security will remain a top priority for his administration.
“We cannot imagine the depth of their anguish, but we can pledge the strength of our resolve,” he said. “And we must to do more to protect our children. We have to do more to protect our children.”
Neither side of the gun debate appeared pleased with Trump’s announcement Tuesday.
“If President Donald Trump’s goal is to ban bump stocks, then that is a gross infringement of Second Amendment rights,” said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. “GOA has long warned that such a ban can easily be applied to triggers, magazines, or semi-automatic firearms.”
John Feinblatt, executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, called the ban “a good initial step.”
“But the devil is in the details, and it remains to be seen whether the Department of Justice will actually prohibit bump stocks, or if the White House is playing games,” he said. “Regardless, this action alone is not enough.”
While Feinblatt urged the president to enact universal background checks, Pratt accused Trump of ignoring his campaign promises to repeal gun-free school zones, along with other gun rights policy stances.
“A ban on bump stocks would ignore the ATF’s previous public comment period that garnered over a hundred thousand comments, which were overwhelmingly anti-regulation,” he said. “Banning bump stocks will not stop criminals from getting guns, but it can be used by gun controllers to ban triggers, magazines, and semi-automatic firearms.”
The Firearms Policy Coalition described Trump’s decision as “absolutely lawless” in a statement Tuesday, promising a legal battle over any proposed ban.
“If the Republican-held House and Senate, and President Donald Trump, choose to act on new gun control over the pro-gun rights legislation that the American people were promised in 2016, they will have shown the voters that neither major political party cares about their rights or the Constitution — and that the only real, civil option left is a new constitutional amendment,” the organization said.
Although the devices existed in relative obscurity prior to the shooting, the ATF knows bump stocks well. In 2010, Texas-based bump stock manufacturer Slide Fire Solutions sought a determination from the agency regarding their product’s classification under the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act of 1934.
At the time, ATF deemed bump stocks as nothing more than an unregulated accessory — not a machine gun, or capable of converting a semi-automatic firearm into a fully automatic fireram, either. Rick Vasquez, the now retired agent who made the call eight years ago, stood by his decision in an Oct. 7 Facebook statement.
“The Slide Fire does not fire automatically with a single pull/function of the trigger,” he said, noting the single pull trigger remains integral to the definition of a machine gun.
He responded briefly to Trump’s announcement in an email to Guns.com Tuesday.
“The ATF has been directed to write a regulation that is stronger then the law,” he said. “An agency can write regulations, but only congress can write laws.”