Bump stocks, the controversial devices that were used by Las Vegas mass killer Steven Paddock last Oct. 1, may have just become a casualty of the political war being waged in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week.
U.S. News is reporting that President Donald Trump has signed a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions directing the Justice Department to propose regulations that could ban the bump stock and other devices that increase the rate of fire of semi-auto rifles. Prior to last October’s attack in Las Vegas, very few people outside of the firearms community had ever heard of bump stocks.
The president has also indicated he may be open to some strengthening of federal background checks. It is not clear whether stricter checks would have prevented last week’s incident, or any of the recent mass shootings, without improved reporting of disqualified persons to the National Instant Check System (NICS) operated by the FBI.
The accused gunman in last week’s high school shooting in Parkland, Florida did not used a bump stock, although he did use an AR-15 type rifle, and he passed a background check. He is now in jail, charged with 17 counts of murder.
The announcement comes less than a week after the Florida tragedy. Over the past several days, high school students, gun prohibition lobbying groups and Capitol Hill anti-gunners have pushed hard for some signal that tougher gun laws may be on the way.
There have been efforts on the part of the firearms industry to improve the NICS system. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has promoted a project dubbed “Fix NICS” referring to the system that was created more than 20 years ago to provide quick background checks in an effort to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.
There have been some significant government failures to provide the NICS system with information on people who would likely have been denied, had the system been kept up to date. The shooter in last year’s church attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas had been able to purchase guns despite a criminal conviction in the Air Force. Ironically, that gunman was shot by an armed citizen who also used an AR15.
Demonstrators staged an event outside the White House on Monday, and there are planned protests on at least two separate dates in March, according to various reports.
Whether declaring bump stocks illegal will have much of an impact on gun owners remains to be seen. Some may see it as not much of a loss, while others may argue that this is just the tip of a gun control iceberg. It is not known how many of the devices are owned around the country.