Politics

Bipartisan Group Introduces Last-Ditch Bump Stock Bill

Bill would not ban the device, but subject it to an ATF registry

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., and three other lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday aimed at regulating bump stocks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One month after the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that takes aim at the bump stock loophole in the National Firearms Act.

The so-called Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act explicitly empowers the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to immediately regulate bump stocks and similar semiautomatic rifle attachments that increase the rate of fire to nearly that of an automatic weapon.

Under the new legislation, anyone who has or wants to buy a bump stock must register it with ATF. The registration process would include an extensive background check, fingerprinting and a $200 registration fee.

Two Democrats, Reps. Dina Titus of Nevada and Michigan’s Dan Kildee, joined forces with Republican Reps. Dave Trott of Michigan and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania to produce the bill.

Fitzpatrick is a former federal gun crimes prosecutor. Titus’ district includes the site of the Nov. 1 shooting in Las Vegas.

The measure would not outlaw bump stocks, which were found on 12 of the rifles in the hotel room from which the Las Vegas shooter killed 58 concertgoers and wounded more than 500.

Two other bills introduced in the House this month sought to ban the devices. Those bills have not gained traction.

“This bill will not prevent all senseless gun deaths,” Kildee said in a statement. “It seeks to address one dangerous loophole in existing law that allows anyone to acquire a bump stock, no questions asked.”

Stock positions

Most members of Congress have said they support tighter restrictions on bump stocks. Only 11 lawmakers, all House Republicans, have said they will oppose any bill limiting access to them. A number of others did not respond to a survey from Roll Call seeking their position.

Many Republican leaders have said they support bump stock regulation but believe it is an issue best left to ATF

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said ATF already has the authority to regulate bump stocks, which would be “the smartest, quickest fix.” The speaker’s office declined to comment about the latest legislation.

But members of the ATF Association, or AFTA, which consists of current and former employees of the bureau, have written a letter to Congress saying that’s not true.

“The notion that ATF chose not to regulate an item it had the authority to regulate is false,” ATFA president Michael Bouchard wrote. “The law is very clear and it does not currently allow ATF to regulate such accessories.”

Bouchard and ATFA endorsed the legislation introduced Tuesday.

“We urge Congress to support this bipartisan legislation and pass this bill,” Bouchard said in a statement. He thanked the bill’s co-sponsors for introducing the proposal and for “recognizing the need for Congress to act to keep American communities safe.”

Kildee said there is a degree of truth to the notion that lawmakers feel they must move quickly after national tragedies to capitalize on any momentum for new gun legislation.

“There’s this conventional thinking that you have to move fast,” he said. “Let’s be honest, though. After each one of these tragedies, there’s been quick action to try to get something done. But after each one, there’s been nothing. Nothing.”

Trott stressed it was important for lawmakers to be deliberate in working out bipartisan gun violence solutions.

“This bill ends the cycle of knee-jerk legislation, hastily thrown together in the wake of these all too common tragedies,” Trott said in a statement. “Rather this is a proactive approach, that gives the ATF the regulatory flexibility it needs to hold these devices to the highest level of scrutiny while protecting Americans’ 2nd amendment rights.”Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.