Marc Thiessen: A 'bump stock' ban is something Republicans should support

Editor's note: The following column first appeared in The Washington Post.

In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, Republicans on Capitol Hill have shown deep reluctance to consider any gun legislation, worried that Democrats will use the shooting as a pretext to restrict law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

This reluctance is understandable, particularly in the wake of the near-instantaneous effort by some Democrats to politicize this tragedy. But it is a mistake. The Las Vegas attack exposed a gaping hole in the existing and widely supported automatic-weapons ban — and Republicans can easily close it without infringing on constitutional rights.

Law enforcement authorities have confirmed that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, had 12 weapons in his hotel room fitted with “bump-fire stocks,” devices that effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into machine guns. Under current law, machine guns — weapons that fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull — are almost completely banned in the United States, as are devices that convert rifles to do so. Bump-fire stocks get around this ban by using the gun’s recoil to repeatedly “bump” the weapon back into the shooter’s trigger finger, creating an automatic effect. As Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Jill Snyder explained, “Bump-fire stocks, while simulating automatic fire, do not actually alter the firearm to fire automatically, making them legal under current federal law.”

Republicans should immediately announce their intention to pass legislation banning such devices.

A ban on bump-fire stocks and similar devices would not infringe on gun rights. Automatic weapons are already banned as part of the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Bump-fire stocks are designed to circumvent a ban that Republicans already are on record supporting. Closing this loophole does not restrict gun rights; it simply comports with the intent of existing firearms laws.

This is an opportunity for bipartisanship. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and 33 Senate Democrats have introduced the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, “a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons.” The Feinstein bill would “ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire” and “makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.”

Republicans should immediately announce their intention to pass legislation banning such devices.

A ban on bump-fire stocks and similar devices would not infringe on gun rights. Automatic weapons are already banned as part of the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Bump-fire stocks are designed to circumvent a ban that Republicans already are on record supporting. Closing this loophole does not restrict gun rights; it simply comports with the intent of existing firearms laws.

This is an opportunity for bipartisanship. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and 33 Senate Democrats have introduced the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, “a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons.” The Feinstein bill would “ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire” and “makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.”

Marc Thiessen is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush and to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.