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Senate Republicans scuttle bump stock legislation

Democrats brought up the bill to reinstate a federal ban on the firearm accessory after the Supreme Court struck it down last week.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Senate Republicans on Tuesday shot down an attempt to revive a Trump-era ban on bump stocks for firearms, just days after the Supreme Court ruled that the executive branch had no authority to enforce such restrictions.

Although efforts to keep bump stocks off the market have previously enjoyed bipartisan support, GOP lawmakers rose to block a Democrat-led bill that would have reinstated the ban, putting the legislative push to bed — at least for now.

The Supreme Court on Friday concluded that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act when it placed guns fitted with bump stocks in the same legal category as machine guns. A bump stock attachment utilizes the recoil of a semiautomatic firearm to mimic fully automatic fire by repeatedly forcing the user’s finger against the trigger.

But despite their ruling against the ATF, the justices contended that the issue was still ripe for congressional action.

“Congress can amend the law,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito, “and probably would have done so already if ATF had stuck with its earlier interpretation.”

Democrats took the high court up on its suggestion, bringing up legislation to re-ban bump stocks sponsored by New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, who long advocated for a legislative remedy to their proliferation. The bill was brought to the Senate floor under a procedural mechanism known as unanimous consent, which would allow lawmakers to skip a roll call vote.

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Heinrich said there was “no legitimate use for a bump stock — not for self-defense, not in a law enforcement context, not even for military applications.”

The attachment, the lawmaker said, is “tailor-made” for a mass shooting. He added that Congress needed to act right away.

“I refuse to stand idly by and wait for the next mass shooting,” Heinrich said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Republicans not to oppose Heinrich’s bill.

“Banning bump stocks should be the work of five minutes,” he said. “If Republicans block this bill today … shame on them. They’d be siding with the gun lobby over families exasperated by gun violence.”

But Senate Republicans have argued that the Democratic effort to clamp down on bump stocks was little more than a show vote.

“The Supreme Court made the right decision,” said Nebraska Senator Pete Ricketts, arguing that the Democratic bill targets “common firearm accessories, not just bump stocks.”

Ricketts, who signed an amicus brief to the high court as it weighed the bump stocks case, contended that the legislation would also cover devices that increase the fire rate of a firearm, such as adjustable triggers or certain grips and forearm braces.

Under Senate rules, the Republican objection to Democrats’ unanimous consent request marks the end of this latest push to ban bump stocks — unless lawmakers move to bring Heinrich’s bill back up under normal procedures.

The New Mexico senator, for his part, signaled his fight was far from over.

“This will not be the last time you hear about these devices on the floor of the Senate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen during a news conference Tuesday slammed her GOP colleagues for their opposition to the legislation.

“Saying that banning bump stocks solves a fake problem is disgraceful, and it’s offensive,” she told reporters. “The Trump-era ban was common sense and it saved lives. We now have a responsibility to make it permanent in federal law.”

The fight against bump stocks is personal for Rosen, who represents the people of Las Vegas — where a gunman in 2017 killed 60 people and wounded hundreds more using rifles fitted with the devices. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Following the Las Vegas shooting, Congress demurred from passing legislation banning bump stocks, with Republican leaders at the time opting instead to hand the decision to the Trump administration. The ATF, with former President Trump’s backing, unveiled its now-scuttled regulations in 2018.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
Categories / Government, National, Politics

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