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Trump straddling both sides of gun policy issue

President Donald Trump surprised both gun rights advocates and those hoping for gun policy reforms by ordering Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.”

His memo came down more than four months after the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas, where Stephen Paddock, 64, made his rifles shoot faster by adding bump stocks to the semi-automatic weapons. Those bump stocks enabled him to murder 58 people at a country music concert from his bird’s-eye position at Mandalay Bay. An additional 546 were injured. The shooting lasted 10 minutes.

Trump’s memo came down the week after Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and staffers at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and wounded 16. The shooting lasted six minutes.

Cruz, 19, used an AR-15 that didn’t have a bump stock.

If Trump’s order actually results in a ban on bump stocks, then hooray, hooray.

If the National Rifle Association manages to block such a ban — as it has blocked other gun control efforts — then the president’s announcement will be meaningless chatter. After the Las Vegas shooting, the NRA said it would support restrictions on bump stocks.

Trump has suggested he would be open to allowing some teachers to carry concealed weapons in school. Score one for the NRA if that becomes gun policy.

Seems like Trump is playing both sides of the gun policy issue.

The president is also now considering tightening background checks. Another step forward for gun control advocates. If it happens. Big if.

Who needs a bump stock anyway? Or an AR-15 for that matter. For protection? I doubt it.

I hope the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are successful in their efforts to bring about change. But their first effort flopped. They hoped the Valentine’s Day shooting at their school would move the Florida Legislature to ban assault weapons. Instead, Florida legislators voted not to take up the bill. The bill also would have banned large-capacity magazines.

It wasn’t a squeaker in the Florida House. The vote was 71 to 36 against taking up the bill. The students who thought they could bring about change in gun policy quickly learned that change doesn’t move faster than a speeding bullet.

I am in agreement with Gov. Brian Sandoval. “I have said before that the federal action is the appropriate approach for sanctions on bump stocks or similar accessories, as it would be the most direct path for a swift and uniform change,” he said.

A state-by-state approach to gun control laws would not make sense. Plus, who wants state legislators making gun laws likely to be inconsistent with other states? Uniformity should be a must.

Factcheck.org examined what happened in Australia after a massacre of 35 people in Tasmania, the so-called Port Arthur Massacre. The shooter used an AR-15.

The massacre was April 29, 1996. Twelve days later, the government introduced the National Firearm Agreement which banned certain semi-automatic, self-loading rifles and shotguns, and imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements. It also instituted a mandatory buyback program for firearms banned by the 1996 law.

The results?

Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since. Bump stocks are illegal except for professional shooters culling kangaroos, according to the newspaper, the Australian.

Factcheck.org quoted a 2006 study from the University of Sydney, which said: “Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides.”

No mass shootings? A drop in deaths from firearms? We should be so lucky for results like those.

I’m sure some gun rights advocates will suggest I move to Australia if don’t believe in the Second Amendment. Does anyone really believe that the Founding Fathers meant the right to bear arms extended to AR-15s or other weapons of modern war? They were using pistols, rifles and muskets.

In Colonial times, people couldn’t even imagine the damage an AR-15 with a bump stock might do.

Las Vegas first responders don’t have to image it. They saw it Oct. 1.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Sundays in the Nevada section. Contact her at jane@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.

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