The Trump administration said Saturday it has taken the first step in the regulatory process to ban bump stocks, the AP reports. The move was expected after President Trump ordered the Justice Department to work toward a ban following the shooting deaths of 17 people at a Florida high school in February. Bump stocks, which enable guns to fire like automatic weapons, were not used in that attack—they were used in last year's Las Vegas massacre—but have since become a focal point in the gun control debate. The Justice Department's regulation would classify the hardware as a machine gun banned under federal law. That would reverse a 2010 decision by the ATF that found bump stocks did not amount to machine guns and could not be regulated unless Congress amended existing firearms law or passed a new one.
A reversal of the ATF's earlier evaluation could be seen as an admission that it was legally flawed, which manufacturers could seize on in court. Even as the Trump administration moves toward banning bump stocks, some ATF officials believe it lacks the authority to do so. But any congressional effort to create new gun control laws would need support from the pro-gun Republican majority. A bid to ban the accessory fizzled last year, even as lawmakers expressed openness to the idea after nearly 60 people were gunned down in Las Vegas. Calls mounted for a bump stock ban after that massacre, and the Justice Department said it would again review whether they can be prohibited under federal law. The proposal still needs the approval of the Office of Management and Budget.
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