By Wednesday afternoon, two measly members of Congress had indicated they’d be willing to reconsider the legality of “bump stock” accessories that allowed Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to simulate automatic fire from his many semi-automatic weapons. By Thursday morning, that position was spreading among Republicans in Congress, with the top two House Republicans and the head of the House Judiciary Committee saying they, too, would be willing to look into it. On Thursday afternoon, the shift appeared to be complete, as the National Rifle Association issued a statement that didn’t wholly trash the idea.
But lest it get out that the NRA is throwing its weight behind a bump stock ban, let’s examine its statement more carefully.
The statement starts by lamenting that “the first response from some politicians has been to call for more gun control.” Ho hum. Then, however, it notes that “reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved.”
Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law. The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.
Note what the statement does not do: explicitly call on Congress to act on the issue through legislation, like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to ban bump stocks. It just asks the ATF, which the NRA controls, to take another look.
The statement does ask Congress to do something else, later in the statement—specifically, to pass its top legislative priority of this session. “[W]e urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence.”
It’s notable that the NRA is signaling even the slightest degree of softness on anything related to firearms. But this isn’t much. The NRA’s position is to punt a flashy object into an opaque agency process that it can manage, while at the same time instructing Congress to pass legislation allowing people to carry guns wherever they want.
And whenever the NRA shows the least bit of give on an issue, you can bet that the Gun Owners of America will rush to sweep up the newly available gun-nut market share.