The National Rifle Association has come out against a bipartisan bill that would accomplish what the NRA’s own leadership has publicly proclaimed to support: subjecting gun bump stocks to new restrictions, without banning them outright.
The bill’s lead sponsor is Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania.
“The NRA opposes the overly broad legislation being offered by congressman Fitzpatrick, which is not limited to bump stocks and includes many commonly owned firearm accessories,” Jennifer Baker, a spokesperson for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday. The group has also declared its opposition to the bill over its social media channels.
By coming out against the bill, the NRA is again moving the goalposts for what it would consider an acceptable response to the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
In the days after the massacre, as prominent Republicans joined Democrats in calling for action on the rapid-fire devices found in the gunman’s hotel room, the NRA feinted toward compromise. On October 5, the NRA’s executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and its top lobbyist, Chris Cox, issued a joint statement “calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to immediately review whether [bump stocks] comply with federal law.” They added, “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles designed to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
In subsequent Fox News interviews, LaPierre and Cox made the NRA’s position more explicit: The group did not want Congress to address bump stocks. Rather, the “additional regulations” should come from the ATF, which in 2011 had determined that the products qualify as accessories, not guns, and therefore fall outside the laws it enforces.
The ex-ATF official who led that review, and later a group of current and former ATF employees, retorted that there was a problem with the NRA’s prescription: It is beyond the bureau’s power to do anything about bump stocks, unless Congress changes the applicable statutes.
Fitzpatrick’s fix is more moderate than earlier bills floated by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, which would have outlawed bump stocks and related products.
Instead, the new bill would place bump stocks under the purview of the National Firearms Act, which governs the ownership of silencers, short-barreled shotguns, and other guns and add-ons determined to present extreme risks to public safety. If enacted, anyone seeking to purchase a bump stock would have to undergo fingerprinting, a thorough background check, and pay a $200 registration fee. Current owners of bump stocks would have a year to comply.
Contrary to the NRA’s depiction, Fitzpatrick’s bill does not mention any “commonly owned firearms accessories.” Instead, it refers to a “reciprocating stock, or any other device which is designed to accelerate substantially the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon.”
One leading maker of bump stocks is not waiting for Washington to decide what steps, if any, it will take to address the threats that the Las Vegas shooting exposed.
As The Trace reported on November 1, Texas-based Slide Fire Solutions announced that it is resuming sales of its devices, which its website listed as sold out as talk of new restrictions stimulated demand among hardcore gun owners and collectors.
“We would like to take the time to thank all of our customers for their patience and support throughout this past month!” reads a promotional email publicizing the limited offering.