The National Rifle Association said Thursday afternoon that bump stocks and similar devices designed to increase semiautomatic rifles’ rate of fire should be subject to “additional regulations.”
In a joint statement, the group’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, and its top lobbyist, Chris Cox, called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review the legality of the devices, adding that bump stocks were first approved by the bureau during the presidency of Barack Obama.
“Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the [ATF] to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law,” the statement reads.
At a press briefing held shortly after the NRA’s statement was released, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House would be “open to having that conversation.”
Police recovered at least a dozen rifles outfitted with bump stocks in the hotel room from which a gunman killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more on Sunday night in Las Vegas.
The NRA rarely advocates for the regulation of firearms-related products.
The gun group released its statement after a slew of prominent Republicans signaled their support for, or openness to, legislation banning bump stocks. On Wednesday, Politico reported that the NRA had prohibited the use of the devices at a firing range located at its Virginia headquarters.
There are two identical Democrat-authored bills before Congress that would ban bump stocks and other devices that accelerate semiautomatics’ rate of fire. A Republican congressman from Florida has promised a separate, bipartisan proposal.
If the ATF were to move classify bump stocks as an accessory that should be regulated under federal law, the reversal could preempt a legislative response. That in turn could save Congressional Republicans from being forced to cast a vote that right-wing opponents might characterize as anti-gun.
Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights, smaller groups that are even more doctrinaire than the NRA, have swiftly come out in opposition to any effort to regulate bump stocks. GOA in particular has proved a thorn in the NRA’s side: when the NRA backed incumbent U.S. Senator Luther Strange in the recent Republican primary in Alabama, GOA supported his far-right challenger, Roy Moore, who ultimately beat Strange.
The ATF has reversed itself on the legality of a gun accessory at least once before. The Akins Accelerator was an invention for firing a .22-caliber rifle at full-auto speeds. The ATF initially approved the device only to decide in 2006 that, because it used a spring to aid bump firing and not just recoil or the shooter’s own body, it was illegal.