WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan effectively killed any legislation aiming to outlaw “bump stocks” such as the device used by the Las Vegas shooter, when he said on Wednesday that they should be addressed through regulation.
“We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix,” said Ryan, agreeing with the position that the National Rifle Association took in a statement last week.
Backers of bipartisan bills to ban devices that convert semiautomatic rifles to be able to fire at machine-gun speed urged Ryan to help pass a legislative ban.
Ryan said he’s still trying to understand why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed the sale of the devices in 2010.
“It makes sense that this is regulation that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and we want to understand why is it that they . . . let this go through in the first place,” Ryan said at a Capitol news conference.
A bump stock, which Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock used to convert 12 semiautomatic rifles, replaces a rifle’s fixed stock and slides back and forth with the kickback of each shot as the shooter holds a finger on the trigger. It turns single-shot firing into nearly an automatic weapon spray.
Ryan controls the flow of bills brought to the floor for votes. If he opposes a bill, he can choose to keep it from a vote.
“It might stop further action on a legislative ban,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). “There never was much, or any, chance of other legislation.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), sponsor of a bill to ban bump stocks, and House members, including Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and King, called for a legislative ban.
The NRA last week said it “believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
Feinstein said that legislation is needed to restrict the devices because technology has made the definition of automatic weapons obsolete.
“The ATF lacks authority under the law to ban bump-fire stocks. Period,” Feinstein said in a statement.
She said a 2013 ATF letter to Congress said that “ ‘stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes.’ Legislation is the only answer and Congress should not attempt to pass the buck.”