Ryan backs away from ac­tion on ‘bump stocks’

Star Tribune - - NATION & WORLD - By MIKE DEBONIS Washington Post

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan backed away Wed­nes­day from leg­isla­tive ac­tion to ban “bump stocks,” the de­vice a mass shooter used in Las Ve­gas ear­lier this month to cre­ate ma­chine-gun-like rapid fire from his le­gal semi-au­to­matic ri­fle, killing 58.

In­stead, Ryan and many fel­low House Repub­li­cans hope, the Bu­reau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives will act ad­min­is­tra­tively to out­law the de­vices, which the agency pre­vi­ously ruled to be le­gal in 2010.

“We think the reg­u­la­tory fix is the smartest, quick­est fix, and then, frankly, we’d like to know how it hap­pened in the first place,” Ryan, R-Wis., said Wed­nes­day. He did not dis­cuss pur­su­ing leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress the is­sue.

Ryan made his re­marks a day af­ter 20 bi­par­ti­san House mem­bers backed a bill to ban bump stocks and sim­i­lar de­vices meant to ac­cel­er­ate the fir­ing rate of semi-au­to­matic ri­fles.

The bill, led by Rep. Car­los Curbelo, R-Fla., and

Seth Moul­ton, D-Mass., would make it il­le­gal to man­u­fac­ture, own or trans­fer any de­vice that “is de­signed and func­tions to in­crease the rate of fire of a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle but does not con­vert the semi-au­to­matic ri­fle into a ma­chine gun.”

Fully au­to­matic ma­chine guns, which fire off mul­ti­ple rounds with a sin­gle pull of the trig­ger, are much more tightly reg­u­lated than semi­au­to­matic weapons un­der fed­eral law, and guns of that type man­u­fac­tured af­ter 1986 are gen­er­ally il­le­gal to own. Bump stocks avoid those re­stric­tions by uti­liz­ing a semi-au­to­matic weapon’s re­coil to re­peat­edly en­gage the trig­ger.

Curbelo said Tues­day that ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion alone would not solve the is­sue, not­ing that ATF has pre­vi­ously ruled that the de­vices should not be reg­u­lated like ma­chine guns.

“If they were to get sued af­ter chang­ing that in­ter­pre­ta­tion, the plain­tiffs would Ryan have a very strong case given the agency’s pre­vi­ous de­ter­mi­na­tions,” he said. “So if peo­ple agree with ban­ning these de­vices, let’s pass a law. It’s the best way to make sure it gets done.” Ryan’s com­ments Wed­nes­day went some­what fur­ther than his com­ments last Thursday, shortly af­ter the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion is­sued a state­ment say­ing that bump stocks ought to be more tightly re­stricted and that ATF ought to re­visit its prior rul­ings.

“Fully au­to­matic weapons have been out­lawed for many, many years,” Ryan said Thursday. “This seems to be a way of go­ing around that, so ob­vi­ously we need to look how we can tighten up the com­pli­ance with this law so that fully au­to­matic weapons are banned.”

While many gun-rights ad­vo­cates in Con­gress have ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to re­strict bump stocks and sim­i­lar de­vices, they are wary of tak­ing ac­tion through leg­is­la­tion. With the pres­i­dency and both cham­bers of Con­gress un­der GOP con­trol, and yet few pieces of ma­jor leg­is­la­tion signed into law, mul­ti­ple House Repub­li­cans said pri­vately this week it would be po­lit­i­cally un­ten­able to put a bill on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s desk en­act­ing a new gun con­trol.

But there may be a crit­i­cal mass of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans that could help push a bump-stock bill to the fore.

Curbelo said Tues­day he ex­pected to add “many more” Repub­li­can cospon­sors to his bill in the com­ing days.

A Washington Post count of GOP law­mak­ers sug­gests there are enough Repub­li­cans will­ing to join with Democrats in the House to pass a ban.

Gun-con­trol ad­vo­cates, mean­while, are also push­ing for leg­is­la­tion. Mark Kelly, the co-founder of Amer­i­cans for Re­spon­si­ble So­lu­tions, said Fri­day that leg­is­la­tion is the most re­li­able way to not only re­strict bump stocks but also deal with the an­cil­lary is­sues any new re­stric­tions might cre­ate.

“We don’t want peo­ple to have au­to­matic weapons that we don’t know who they are, they’re not reg­is­tered. These peo­ple aren’t fin­ger­printed. That is not a good sce­nario,” he said.

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