As far away as it may seem now, Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more less than three weeks ago when he opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas. His reign of terror was undoubtedly facilitated by an accessory designed to mimic automatic weapon fire, a bump stock.
After the shooting Republicans repeated their usual routine when this sort of American-bred tragedy occurs. Thoughts, prayers, and shallow aphorisms like “you can’t regulate evil.” It’s true, you can’t regulate evil, but you can’t sure as hell take away the tools that enable depravity.
For a fleeting moment, though, it seemed like maybe this time around Congress might respond differently to yet another mass shooting. Republican leaders in the House and Senate reportedly mulled over supporting legislation banning bump stocks and the National Rifle Association appeared to endorse a ban on the accessory.
But now, just like every other mass shooting, momentum propelling a bump stock ban through Congress has stalled. Senator Diane Feinstein’s proposed legislation has failed to pull a single Republican co-sponsor. Even if a Republican did sign on, The Daily Beast reported, the Senate Judiciary Committee would be unlikely to consider the bill.
Support for a similar bill proposed by Reps. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican representing Florida’s 26th district, and Seth Moutlon, a Democrat representing Massachusetts sixth district, has also fizzled. Despite the bill’s bipartisan co-sponsorship, a House Judiciary Committee hearing remains improbable as well.
Instead, GOP leaders have a different plan, and it’s one that sounds remarkably similar to the NRA’s talking points. Regulation, not legislation. It’s the duty of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to declare bump stocks illegal, they say. In actuality, though, the ATF has considered bump stocks before and concluded the accessory doesn’t actually change trigger mechanisms. If it did, ATF regulation would be within their jurisdiction.
But Congress seems to think regulating bump stocks can be left to the ATF, even though it can’t, so they won’t act — and a very preventable cycle of violence will continue.