More than two months after their use in the worst mass shooting sprees in US history, Congress still has not acted on “bump stocks” — and now they may not need to act at all. The ATF, which originally allowed their sale, has notified Congress that they will review that decision. If they reclassify bump stocks as a full-auto modification, they can effectively ban them through the regulatory process, letting lawmakers off the hook for a statutory response:
JUST IN: The ATF has sent letters to Congress formally notifying them they are reviewing whether “bump stocks” fall under the regulatory category of “machine gun,” which would allow them to be regulated by the bureau.
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) December 11, 2017
Jeff Sessions gets results. Just a few days ago, the Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice would begin a review to determine whether bump stocks were already illegal:
The Justice Department is reviewing whether devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire faster should be banned.
The review announced Tuesday comes after a Las Vegas gunman used the so-called “bump stock” devices during a deadly October rampage that killed 59 people and wounded hundreds more. A bid to ban the accessory fizzled in Congress, even as bipartisan lawmakers expressed openness to the idea.
The Justice Department will consider whether weapons using bump stocks should be considered illegal machine guns under federal law. They are currently legal and widely available.
The ATF is a subsidiary agency of the DoJ, of course, and its quick response demonstrates the touchiness of this political issue. Republicans faced pressure to pass a statutory ban on bump stocks, a proposal that the NRA at first supported. After Nancy Pelosi cheered the measure as the catalyst for a “slippery slope” to gun control, that bipartisanship evaporated, and the eventual language in the proposal drew even more criticism. As a result, the effort to ban the modification has stalled.
If the ATF reclassifies bump stocks and then bars their use, that will let Congress off the hook, at least for the moment. The bureau came under sharp criticism in October over their initial decision to allow the sale, with critics and firearms enthusiasts alike wondering what purpose the ATF thought they served in the first place. Republicans on Capitol Hill began wondering why they needed to intervene when the ATF could rectify the situation for themselves. Sessions appears to have taken the hint, albeit belatedly.
Speaking of which … isn’t it curious how quickly the Las Vegas massacre dropped off the political radar screen? There have been media follow-ups with the victims, and lawsuits too — some of them running into eight figures:
The husband and three children of a victim in the October’s Las Vegas concert massacre are seeking $45 million in damages from the estate of the gunman, PEOPLE confirms.
On Wednesday, the family of 31-year-old Keri Galvan — who was killed along with 57 other innocent people in the mass shooting on Oct. 1 — filed a creditor’s claim against the estate of shooter Stephen Paddock in Clark County, Nevada, according to court documents first obtained by The Blast. …
Documents filed in court and reviewed by PEOPLE show that Keri’s husband, Justin, and the couple’s three children, who are 10, 4 and 2 years old, are each seeking $10 million from Paddock’s estate.
When Paddock’s motives could not be easily determined, the story faded very quickly from the front pages and top spots of media outlets. Some of that might be just the rush of other political stories, but it may also be that all we will ever have are frustrating conclusions to Paddock’s brutality. We will never know the motive, or at the very least, what we will ever know will never add up. We will have discovered no easy way to prevent this kind of attack in the future. No policy changes would have impacted it — not even the bump stock modifiers, which clearly made it worse but wouldn’t have prevented the attack from happening at all.
Politically, the ATF move will take this even further off the front pages, but don’t expect that to remain the case. Gun-control advocates will take up this case again in the fall of 2018, and the lack of action in Congress will be cast as an indictment on Republican leadership rather than a recognition that little could have been done to stop Paddock in the first place.