An attachment that turns semi-automatic weapons into machine guns will soon be banned under the orders of the President.
Donald Trump has signed a memorandum instructing the Justice Department to propose regulations that would ban bump stocks.
It is the latest measure in response to the national call for legislative action to stem mass shootings, following the President earlier signalling his intention to tighten federal background checks on potential gun-buyers.
Bump stocks are devices that are fitted to semi-automatic rifles to effectively turn them into (strictly-regulated) fully-automatic weapons, allowing them to shoot up to 800 rounds per minute.
Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock reportedly modified his semi-automatic guns with bump stocks (which can be bought in kits for as little as $99), and killed 58 people and injured 500, in what is America’s deadliest ever mass shooting.
“We can do more to protect our children. We must do more to protect our children,” Trump said during the announcement at the White House.
After the October massacre, Trump said he directed attorney-general Jeff Sessions to clarify whether certain bump stock devices were illegal under current law.
“That process began in December and just a few moments ago I signed a memorandum directing the attorney-general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,” Trump said on Tuesday at a White House event honouring first responders.
I signed a memorandum directing the attorney-general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.
“I expect that these critical regulations will be finalised, Jeff, very soon.”
How the bump stock was cleared by the ATF
Texan Jeremiah Cottle invented the bump stock after finishing up with the US Air Force in 2005.
According to Bloomberg, he went down to his woodworking shop and using scrap wood, PVC pipe, and duct tape, he created a device that “uses a rifle’s recoil, or bump, against a stiffened trigger finger to approximate automatic fire”.
But how Cottle — through his company Slide Fire Solutions — managed to gain clearance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), says a lot about the lax federal laws.
Citing a letter from the bureau dated June 7, 2010, Bloomberg revealed the ATF accepted Slide Fire’s argument that it was simply an accessory to help people with disabilities who had difficulty firing the AR-15.
The ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch ruled that the bump stock was a gun part, one that wasn’t integral to the functioning of the weapon, and as such excluded it from federal firearm regulations.
Such was America’s appetite for the device, in its first year Slide Fire reported sales exceeding $10 million.
The company hasn’t released figures since 2011, but it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of units have made their way into gun owners’ hands between Slide Fire and its many competitors.
Slide Fire has been a vocal detractor of stricter gun laws.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, a bill was proposed to ban 120 types of assault and semiautomatic weapons.
If it had’ve passed, bump stocks would’ve been banned too. So, Slide Fire helped defeat the bill as a lead advocate.
At the time, Laura Shackelford, Slide Fire’s then chief executive manager, wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Times, saying that such a ban would do nothing to reduce gun violence, and would erode the constitutional right to bear arms.
Tighter background checks
Trump spoke with Republican Senator John Cornyn about a bipartisan bill that seeks to improve the checks in place before someone can buy a gun.
The background check measure would not impose new restrictions on gun purchases, but rather attempt to make sure that information about mental health and criminal conviction records that legally bar individuals from buying weapons is consistently sent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The bill was introduced after the Texas church massacre last year, when the US Air Force admitted it had failed to flag the gunman’s domestic violence conviction.
It would require federal agencies to report background information thoroughly and accurately.
The fact that last week’s school shooter had been examined by Florida mental health workers in 2016 and was still able to purchase seven rifles including the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he used to carry out the attack, has only reinforced the need for stricter assessment.