Republican lawmakers appear to be leaning more toward the National Rifle Association's view that the Trump administration should write new regulations for bump stock devices and that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should handle the matter, rather than passing a law through Congress.
"Given the function and capability of a semi-automatic rifle that is modified by a bump stock, we respectfully request that you review the Obama Administration’s interpretation and issue your own interpretation," Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota; and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, wrote in a letter to Thomas Brandon, the acting ATF director on Friday, reports The Hill.
Bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to be fired nearly as rapidly as an automatic firearm, were found on several of the weapons used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock in last week's deadly attack on concertgoers last Sunday.
The devices are legally available after the ATF, during former President Barack Obama's administration, did not interpret them as an item that should be banned, the senators' letter said.
"Unfortunately, we are all now keenly aware of how this device operates and believe that this renewed review and determination will keep our citizens safe and ensure that federal law is enforced," they wrote.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said questions about bump stocks should be referred to the ATF, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Department of Justice.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the ATF will brief his committee, and it may hold a hearing to address loopholes in federal law that bans automatic weapons.
"Machine guns are already illegal so if this device is found to turn semi-automatics into machine guns, then there isn’t a need for Congress to act," said one Republican senator shortly after the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued a statement Thursday calling on the ATF to review the issue.
Democrats, though, are saying that it's not enough to allow the ATF to address the bump stock issue.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who has introduced legislation outlawing any devices that speed up semi-automatic weapons' firing capabilities, said that only a law will make it "crystal clear" that there is a ban on the devices.
Opponents, though, claim that the Feinstein bill could lead to other gun control laws, including prohibitions against guns with lighter trigger pulls and other technologies that allow them to be fired more quickly.
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