On October 1, 2017 a large crowd gathered at a country-western music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the end of the evening 58 were dead and 851 were injured. The incident was only 122 days ago. Since the tragedy has faded from memory, and certainly from the headlines, perhaps it’s time for a reminder of several key factors: (1) the massage casualties were caused by gun fire; (2) the lethality of the weapons used was enhanced by the addition of a bump-stock; and (3) the initial call for the elimination of bump-stock sales has diminished into memory.
Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fl 26) introduced H.R. 3999 to address the bump stock issue on October 10, 2017. It has not moved since. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Senate version (S 1916) on October 4, 2017. Her bill got a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 6, 2017. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto spoke during the first panel during this hearing. The ATF spokesman participated in the second panel and told the committee his agency issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 4, 2017 and invited public comment as to whether bump stocks should be addressed in the agency’s classification system. [pdf] The ATF rule-making process has ten steps, and there is the potential for delays and diversions prior to adoption. Nor was this a complete version of the story.
The agency was unsure as of December 5, 2017 if it had the authority under existing statutes to issue a ban on the manufacture and sale of bump stocks. [USAT] [HuffPo] And, to make matters a bit more complicated, “The ATF has submitted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget. The process, which will require public hearings, generally takes eight months to a year to complete.” [OL 12/26/17]
The Federal Register published the following concerning the bump stock review:
“The Department of Justice anticipates issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would interpret the statutory definition of “machinegun” in the National Firearms Act of 1934 and Gun Control Act of 1968 to clarify whether certain devices, commonly known as “bump fire” stocks, fall within that definition. Before doing so, the Department and ATF need to gather information and comments from the public and industry regarding the nature and scope of the market for these devices.”
The Department set a deadline for written comments:
“Written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments must be submitted on or before January 25, 2018. Commenters should be aware that the electronic Federal Docket Management System will not accept comments after Midnight Eastern Standard Time on the last day of the comment period.”
Thus, all written comments were due last Thursday, 116 days after the slaughter. As for this year’s state of the union address, one Congressman, Dan Kildee (D-MI) invited a guest who is an activist on behalf of gun victims. [Hill] Meanwhile, there have been 22 mass shootings in the United States during the first month of this year, thankfully none using a bump stock, 158 accidental shootings, and 14 shootings since yesterday. [Trace]
Granting that haste makes waste, it does seem ages ago when the rampage ended at the music festival, another age since the testimony concerning the regulation of bump stocks, and another age since the initiation of rulemaking reviews. 122 days and counting.