WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump moved to ban bump stocks Saturday as his Department of Justice sent a proposed regulation to define the devices as machine guns under the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act.
The devices were used to accelerate the rate of fire in the Oct. 1 Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 people dead and injured more than 700 others.
“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 a statement. “To that end, the Department of Justice has submitted to the Office of Management and Budget a notice of a proposed regulation to clarify that the National Firearms and Gun Control Act defines ‘machine gun’ to include bump stock-type devices.”
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., applauded the move.
“Immediately following the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas last October, I had the opportunity to speak with the President about bump stock devices, and I urged the Department of Justice to review the Obama-era ruling that permitted the sale of them,” Heller said in a statement. “While it is impossible to eradicate pure evil from this world, the Administration’s move to ban bump stocks is a positive step toward making our communities in Nevada and around this country safer.”
Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said she welcomed the Administration’s decision to have the Department of Justice “make this long overdue change on bump stocks.”
“Congress should follow suit by passing a statutory ban on bump stocks so that these dangerous devices never come back into use,” Rosen, who is running for Heller’s Senate seat, said in a statement. “It’s time for Congress to finally treat gun violence like an urgent public health crisis and take meaningful action on other common-sense solutions. I’m fully committed to continuing my work across the aisle to reduce this horrific gun violence once and for all.”
In 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled that federal gun law did not grant it the authority to ban bump stocks. Thus it is not entirely clear, if the devices can be banned administratively without an explicit change in gun law.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a strong advocate for gun control, challenged the move. “The only way to guarantee bump stocks are banned is to pass a law,” she noted on Twitter. “If Republicans truly wanted to get these dangerous devices off the streets, they would support our legislation.”
In October, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that manufacturers would have a strong case against new regulations. They could go to court and demand that the bureau follow federal gun laws and not ban bump stock sales.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley also saw “a strong argument” that only a law passed by Congress and signed by the president can ban bump stocks.
Kurt Schlichter, who frequently appears on NRATV, agreed with Feinstein that Congress should settle the issue.
“No matter what you think of these novelty devices, using regulations to do what is appropriately the province of our elected representatives to do is a bad idea,” he responded. “Congress, which is accountable to voters, is where this issue should be debated and determined.”