Everyone, Even the NRA, Wanted to Regulate Bump Stocks—So Why Won't It Happen?

A customer looks over weapons for sale at the Pony Express Firearms shop in Parker, Colorado, on December 7. In a 2008 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to “keep and bear” firearms. But no right is unlimited, the author writes. Rick Wilking/Reuters

The National Rifle Association's unprecedented support for regulations on bump stocks—the device that helped Stephen Paddock carry out the country's deadliest mass shooting to date—is the very thing that likely ruined any chance of Congress passing sensible gun control legislation in the Las Vegas shooting's aftermath.

In the days following the shooting, the NRA released a statement, writing that it believes "devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations."

But that support for regulations probably doomed the best shot Congress had at passing any measures aimed at bump stocks: a bipartisan House bill introduced by Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Seth Moulton that would ban the "manufacture, sale and use" of bump stocks. Ten Republicans and 10 Democrats had stepped up to co-sponsored the bill; there didn't appear to be any opposition.

Curbelo said his bill could bridge the traditional gap between gun advocates and gun control supporters, calling it a "common-sense ban on devices that blatantly circumvent already existing law without restricting Second Amendment rights."

But the NRA rendered Curbelo and Moulton's efforts to reach across the aisle moot. The gun rights group insisted it supports regulations on bump stocks, but believes any ban should come from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms — not Congress. And later, the NRA issued another statement, stating point-blank that the organization opposed the House's bipartisan bill.

Because of the GOP's historically close ties with the NRA, this backpedaling was enough to bring the bill's progress in the House to a sputtering halt.

A bump fire stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate. George Frey/Reuters

"Obviously, it is really frustrating that discussions on the Hill have stalled," Robin Lloyd, the director of government affairs at the pro-gun control organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, told the Daily Beast. "Right after Las Vegas...members on all sides of the aisle (felt a) willingness to do something. But the NRA came out with their statement a few days later and said this is a problem the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms] should [solve].

"We felt they were giving Congress a way out and that's what has since happened," he added.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he won't bring the bill to the floor, echoing the NRA's belief that restrictions on bump stocks shouldn't come from Congress. "We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix," he said earlier this month.

Quickest, perhaps, but still stalled. The Bureau has done nothing to move the issue forward.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) hopes she can find a single Republican senator to sign onto a bump stock ban bill that already has 39 Democratic co-sponsors.

In some ways, Congress' latest impasse on gun control had already been foretold.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll from earlier this month found that while 64 percent of voters support tighter gun restrictions, just 26 percent "excellent or good chance" Congress would pass any gun control legislation over the next year. It's clear why they would be discouraged: After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Senate failed to pass a bill on universal background checks. And in the aftermath of the 2016 Orlando shooting, the Senate killed four measures restricting gun sales.

"Depressing but not surprising," one senior House Democratic aide told the Daily Beast of lawmakers' latest failure to push forward gun control legislation.