In the wake of the worst mass shooting in our country’s modern history, something has happened that has not occurred after previous tragedies: members of Congress in both parties are openly considering taking action. Due to the fact that the murderer made use of “bump stocks,” a firearm accessory that allows a semi-automatic rifle to have an essentially automatic rate of fire, there might be a serious chance to pass legislation to lessen the devastation that a shooter can cause.
The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has said that the issue must be looked into. This is a sentiment shared by other members of the majority party, such as Representative Peter King from Long Island, who said: “Right now my first instinct is to say yes, but I want to look at it more carefully.” Ryan also acknowledged that “fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time,” referring to the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, which “makes it unlawful, with certain exceptions, for any individual to transfer or possess a machinegun.”
By referencing the illegality of machineguns, he is seemingly implying that an attachment to enable full-auto fire should also be illegal. Since he claims to have never heard of bump stocks until now, he may need some time to review the evidence before making an endorsement of a ban, which makes sense. In the Senate, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has taken a stronger stance, saying that he would have “no problem … banning those,” according to the same NBC article. Politico has also reported that nine GOP senators and even the National Rifle Association (NRA) are requesting that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reexamine their decision, made in 2010, that allowed bump stocks to be sold.
This is a tremendous opportunity for legislation to be passed that most of the country can agree on! This year, we have witnessed congressional battles tear a great schism in our populace that was already widened from previous election cycles. If a serious bipartisan bill can reach the President’s desk within the year, it will buck the trend that has been prevalent this year in particular, where countless bills have been drafted, yet have been unable to be passed. Instead of focusing on efforts to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act or attempting to establish a single-payer healthcare system, both of which will surely continue to be brought up in the future, now is the time for Congress to forget about that for a moment and pass a simple, common sense bill banning bumps stocks nationwide.
Senator Dianne Feinstein from California has already introduced such a bill in the Senate. The bill would “bar the sale, manufacture, and possession of so-called bump stocks and other devices — all currently legal — that drastically increase a firearm’s rate of fire.” She was quoted as saying “The only reason to modify a gun like this is to kill as many people as possible in as short of a time as possible,” countering the words of Jeremiah Cottle, the owner of a company that makes and sells bump stocks. He has said that they are meant for recreational use at firing ranges and told the ATF that they were specifically “intended for people with limited use of their hands” when he was seeking their approval.
It is regrettable that Cottle, an Air Force veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury, would lose the market that he pioneered if there were a ban, but the safety of the public is paramount and should be the government’s number one priority when considering their plan for dealing with this issue. Feinstein’s bill has garnered the support of 26 Democratic co-sponsors, but no Republicans yet. I can understand if the Republicans would rather draft their own bill instead of following the lead of the minority party, and especially considering how the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which is in charge of considering gun-related legislation), have both said that it is “too early” for action. President Trump has echoed this sentiment, which is unfortunate considering how his endorsement would be so powerful. Still, I have no doubt that he would be eager to sign a ban bill if it does reach his desk, regardless of whether it is this bill or a hypothetical Republican alternative.
In any case, rapid action is unquestionably needed. The victims and their families deserve a ban on the gun attachment that caused them so much grief and pain, and every member of Congress should come out in support of a ban as soon as they have enough time to make an informed choice. Banning bump stocks will certainly not stop mass shootings, but it will greatly reduce the ability of a depraved gunman to kill by keeping rates of fire capped at semi-auto. Those weapons are still very dangerous, and they would be good candidates for regulation by Congress in the future. Still, they are slower firing than the modified weapon used in Las Vegas, and right now would be a step in the right direction. This should not be a partisan issue (it is not gun control) and would be a straightforward win for both parties and the President if it becomes law. More importantly, it would be a win for American safety in general.
Featured image credit: Wikipedia.