WASHINGTON — On the eve of the one-month anniversary of the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that takes aim at the bump stock loophole in the National Firearms Act.
The Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act explicitly empowers the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to immediately regulate bump stocks and similar semiautomatic rifle attachments that increase the rate of fire to fully automatic.
Under the Fitzpatrick-Kildee-Titus-Trott legislation, anyone who has or wants to buy a bump stock must register it with the 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.
The measure would not outlaw bump stocks, which were found on 12 of the rifles in the hotel room from which Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock killed 58 concertgoers and wounded more than 500 on Oct. 1.
Two other bills introduced in the House in October 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.”
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 the ATF.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said the 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, which consists of current and former employees of the bureau, have written in a letter to Congress that 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 the 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.
“It’s a frustrating thing that something as simple as this — which should have broad public support, and we think it does — that we would have to wait until another tragedy before it gains momentum,” Kildee said.
“It’s important that we not take action based on the last tragedy, but take action to prevent the next tragedy.”