America is still waiting for a ban on bump stocks

October 3, 2018

On the one-year anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, President Donald Trump said a ban on the bump stocks that contributed to the massacre is “two or three weeks” away.

We hope he’s right, because past pronouncements about outlawing the devices that turn semiautomatic guns into machine guns haven’t led to swift action.

“Bump stocks are gone,” Trump said at a press conference Monday. “I have told the NRA — bump stocks are gone. But to do that, you have to go to public hearings, which we have had. You have to go through all sorts of regulatory control systems.”

Actually, all we needed was Congress to do its job. The House and Senate could have easily and quickly passed a bill emphatically banning bump stocks, which helped a deranged man in a Las Vegas hotel tower rain 1,100 bullets onto an outdoor music festival, killing 58 and injuring about 500 on Oct. 1, 2017

But passing a simple and popular gun-control measure proved too difficult for the Republican-run Congress, which kowtows to the National Rifle Association. Not even sweeping support across the partisan divide could budge leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, to schedule a vote.

So President Trump has slowly pushed an administrative rule to effectively ban bump stocks. That’s not ideal, but it should work, assuming legal challenges don’t stall implementation.

Fully automatic guns have long been illegal for civilians. The proposed rule would define bump stocks as similarly illegal, given their effective purpose is the same.

The Justice Department recently sent a proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review and public comment. The rule would prohibit the manufacture, importation and possession of bump stocks, and owners of the devices would have to destroy them, according to NBC News.

The Las Vegas shooter equipped 12 of his 23 semiautomatic weapons with bump stocks. Investigators said the devices significantly increased his firepower. At one point during the slaughter, the shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel fired 280 rounds in just 31 seconds on concert-goers, which is nine bullets per second.

We’ll be asking candidates in the fall election if they support banning bump stocks, as well as other commonsense measures, such as consistent background checks on gun purchases.

The constitutional right to bear arms must be respected — but not without sensible limits. Bump stocks have no legitimate purpose in the hands of civilians. If Congress can’t do the right thing because of its crass political interests, then we’re glad the Trump administration will. And along with the public, we’ll be watching to ensure it does.

Two or three weeks, Mr. President.

Update hourly