After years in which there were no meaningful changes to U.S. policy on gun laws, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that there’s been some modest signs of progress of late.
A measure to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was in the spending bill. So, too, was an item to expand federal research about gun violence, after more than 20 years in which such research was practically nonexistent.
Then there’s bump stocks, which is an after-market accessory that gun owners can stick on semi-automatic rifles to make them fire faster. Trump announced a new policy for bump stocks on his Twitter the other day, but this was not before he tried to blame the problem on his predecessor – because for Trump (who has an unfortunate knack for saying what the uneducated part of the Republican base wants to hear) practically everything is about Obama.
“Obama Administration legalized bump stocks. BAD IDEA. As I promised, today the Department of Justice will issue the rule banning BUMP STOCKS with a mandated comment period. We will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.”
Like always, Trump is too stupid to understand the details of policies that he claims to care about. Whether the president understands it or not, the Obama administration never did “legalize” bump stocks. They were already legal and available in the marketplace. What the Obama administration actually found out was that any new restrictions on bump stocks must be approved by Congress, not through new regulations that are created by the president.
The Democratic White House obeyed the law; congressional Republicans completely ignored legislative proposals for the issue; and so bump stock sales continued, allowing the Las Vegas shooter to kill 58 people and injure 851 others in just 10 minutes of shooting. Thanks a lot, Republicans.
Tears later, the Trump administration’s incompetent Justice Department managed to reach the same correct conclusion and told the policymakers that to ban bump stocks, Congress must pass new legislation. The difference here is, while Barack Obama followed legal guidance, Trump is stupidly ignoring it.
The New York Times reported Friday afternoon, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Friday that the Justice Department was proposing to ban so-called bump stocks through regulations rather than wait for Congress to act, a move that defies recommendations by federal law enforcement officials and could subject the department to litigation from gun rights groups.”
The full statement from the Justice Department’s about the new regulation was put online on Friday.
When Trump brags that he’s banning bump stocks, he means he’s advancing a legally weak policy that’s will struggle in the courts. If lawyers are correct and the measure dies in the judiciary, then President Jackass’s latest move will have simply wasted time – time that could have been spent encouraging Congress to ban bump stocks for real.