The NRA made a surprise announcement Thursday that it supported government restrictions on "bump stocks," the devices that effectively turned Stephen Paddock's semiautomatic rifles into more lethal automatic weapons. The group called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review its rules on the accessories and determine whether they comply with current law. Coverage on Friday, however, suggests what sounds like a major concession may not be so major:
- Full text: The NRA statement is here.
- Big distinction: The NRA notably didn't ask Congress to ban bump stocks, it asked the ATF to review policy, notes the New York Times. A common reaction is from Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who called the NRA move a "highly dangerous and deceptive dodge." For one thing, he says, it could take years for any new regulations to take effect, as opposed to quicker law that could come through Congress.
- Savvy move: At CNN, Chris Cillizza writes that it was smart politically for the NRA to try to take this out of the hands of Congress, where any outcome is uncertain. "Make no mistake," he writes. "This move on bump stocks is an attempt by the NRA to stop a broad public debate on guns before it really begins in earnest. And it almost certainly will work."
- 'Admirable': At the National Review, Robert Verbruggen calls the NRA statement "admirable" and says it was likely difficult to write. He thinks Congress will eventually have to weigh in, and his suggestion is to allow current bump stocks to be grandfathered in, but forbid sales of new ones.
- No big change: Jim Newell at Slate notes that the NRA urged Congress in the same statement to pass legislation allowing more Americans to carry concealed firearms. The bump stock move is notable but ultimately small beans, he writes. "The NRA’s position is to punt a flashy object into an opaque agency process that it can manage, while at the same time instructing Congress to pass legislation allowing people to carry guns wherever they want."
- Symbolic: Philip Elliott at Time also views the NRA move as largely "inconsequential," though he also sees symbolic value. "At this moment, voters are looking for anything, really, that might suggest they aren’t as vulnerable as the blood-soaked Vegas Strip proved. The NRA decided to let them have that one win."
- Inventor: The man who came up with the bump stock is Jeremiah Cottle, an Air Force veteran, and he told the Albany News back in 2011 that the inspiration came to him when he grew frustrated at not being able to shoot as fast he'd like. He wanted an affordable, legal alternative.
- Sales brisk: Newsweek reports that bump stocks are suddenly tough to find online, with numerous sites sold out. The devices typically run for about $400 or less.
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