Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills
House Dems press Trump on bump stocks ban
Dozens of House Democrats on Monday urged President Trump to back a legislative ban on bump stocks, the devices that accelerate the shooting power of semi-automatic firearms.
The president expressed an openness to outlaw such products last year, after a gunman used them in the killing of 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas - the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Since then, administration officials in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have proposed a rule to regulate bump stocks like machine guns, which would essentially bar them outright.
In the eyes of many Democrats, however, that's not enough. Regulations can be overturned by a future administration, they argue, requiring congressional action to ensure a more permanent prohibition. They're hoping Trump will get on board.
"While we support banning these devices via rulemaking, we do not feel this strategy alone is sufficient," the Democrats wrote Monday in a letter to the president. "Without legislative action by Congress, we fear the rulemaking process will be enveloped in lengthy litigation, leaving more communities vulnerable to the damage these devices are capable of inflicting."
Following the Las Vegas shooting in October, a flurry of bills to ban bump stocks emerged on Capitol Hill, including one from Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican. The devices allow semi-automatic rifles, which are legal, to fire with a rapidity similar to automatic weapons, which have been banned since 1986.
But GOP leaders have favored an administrative approach, urging ATF to make the change unilaterally.
In March, the agency proposed a rule specifying that bump stocks would be classified as machine guns, for regulatory purposes, "because such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger." If finalized, the rule would not only ban the future sale of bump stocks, but require those in current possession of the devices "to surrender them, destroy them, or otherwise render them permanently inoperable upon the effective date of the final rule."
Last month, the agency stopped accepting public comments on the proposal, which reportedly numbered more than 180,000.
Democrats have welcomed the change, but it hasn't prevented them from pressing for a more concrete legislative ban. Such a bill has no chance of moving in the GOP-controlled Congress, particularly with November's elections on the horizon. But heading into the midterms, Democrats want to highlight an issue that has bipartisan support and polls well in their favor.
"We have no time to waste," the lawmakers wrote to Trump. "Gun violence can impact any community in this country, no matter one's party affiliation or congressional district."