A pair of Democrats and Republicans introduced a new bill on Tuesday that would subject bump-fire stocks and other devices to the same regulations as machine guns and other highly regulated firearms.
The bill, named the Closing the Bump-Stock Loophole Act, would add "a reciprocating stock, or any other device which is designed to accelerate substantially the rate of fire of a semiautomatic weapon" to the purview of the National Firearms Act, which currently regulates machine guns, short-barreled rifles or shotguns, silencers, and other firearms. The bill does not define what a "reciprocating stock" is or set a standard for what constitutes a substantial increase to the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon. The bill would give those who already own devices covered under the new regulations a year to comply with them by completing the background checks, registration, and pay the tax stamp required by the National Firearms Act. Those caught with unregistered devices after that point would be subject to federal prosecution.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Dan Kildee (D., Mich.), Dina Titus (D., Nev.), and Dave Trott (R., Mich.).
"This bipartisan legislation will block the availability of these and other dangerous devices, and demonstrates a serious bipartisan commitment to keeping our communities safe," Fitzpatrick said in a statement. "We must do everything in our power to prevent the kind of evil we see in horrifying incidents like the Las Vegas shootings, and resolve as a nation to confront this evil through meaningful, bipartisan legislative action and an ongoing commitment to keep our communities safe from gun violence."
Rep. Kildee said the bill would not prevent all gun deaths but will allow law enforcement to further control the availability of bump-fire stocks and other devices designed to increase a semi-automatic firearm's rate of fire.
"This bill will not prevent all senseless gun deaths—rather, it seeks to address one dangerous loophole in existing law that allows anyone to acquire a bump stock, no questions asked," Kildee said. "This bipartisan legislation will give law enforcement the ability to regulate bump stocks and keep them out of the hands of criminals and violent people. Such deadly devices that can turn firearms into fully automatic machine guns have no place on America's streets."
Bump-fire stocks do not turn semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic firearms. A fully automatic firearm will continue to fire so long as the trigger is depressed, whereas a semi-automatic firearm will only fire once each time the trigger is depressed. Instead, bump-fire stocks use the recoil of the firearm to significantly increase how quickly the shooter can pull the trigger.
The bill is different from a previous bump-fire stock bill introduced a few weeks ago by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats which would make it outright illegal to "manufacture, possess, or transfer any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle." Just as with that bill, though, the National Rifle Association has come out in opposition.
The gun-rights group's lobbying arm said it sees the same flaw in both bills: overly broad language.
"The NRA opposes the overly broad legislation being offered by congressman Fitzpatrick, which is not limited to bumpstocks and includes many commonly owned firearm accessories," Jennifer Baker, a spokesperson for the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon.
The NRA reiterated its position that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) should reconsider its 2010 classification of bump-fire stocks as outside the purview of federal firearms laws.
"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) approved the manufacture and sale of bump-fire devices during the Obama administration," Baker said. "The NRA has called for the ATF to review its decision and determine whether these devices should be regulated differently. Despite the false assertions being made by anti-gun politicians and lobbyists, this is within ATF's regulatory authority."
The ATF has explained its classification process in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting but has not specifically commented on whether or not it would review its previous decision on bump-fire stocks. The congressmen behind the new bill believe the ATF needs further legislative authority to reclassify bump-fire stocks and other devices.
"This bill ends the cycle of knee-jerk legislation, hastily thrown together in the wake of these all-too-common tragedies," Rep. Trott said in a statement. "Rather, this is a proactive approach that gives the ATF the regulatory flexibility it needs to hold these devices to the highest level of scrutiny while protecting Americans’ Second Amendment right."