The U.S. Justice Department’s Friday ban of bump stocks — devices that allow semi-automatics to fire at a faster pace — is welcome news after congressional gun-safety efforts stalled earlier this year.
Fulfilling a promise by President Donald Trump, the rule would not only prohibit the devices from being produced or sold, it requires that any existing devices be destroyed or turned into authorities by March 21. Enforcement steps are not spelled out.
The devices received national attention after being used in the October, 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people. The shooter fired more than 1,000 rounds in a matter of minutes. At least 10 states have passed their own restrictions against bump stocks and similar devices.
While legal battles over the rule are expected, it’s still a good step in the push for gun safety and could provide some momentum for legislation as Democrats take control of the House next month.
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The surest way to make bump stocks and similar gadgets illegal is for Congress to pass a law. Sixty-one percent of Americans favor stricter laws on the sale of firearms, according to a Gallup survey conducted in October. That is the strongest support for restrictions since 1990.
The administration’s ban is based on the argument that bump stocks are equivalent to machine guns, which are already illegal. The rule reverses a 2010 decision that such devices were not machine guns and could not be regulated unless Congress said so.
Gun Owners of America has already said it would file a lawsuit against the “unconstitutional regulations.” The National Rifle Association earlier agreed to support a bump-stock ban, but now wants amnesty for current owners.
We hope the administration overcomes any legal challenge to this reasonable step. In the meantime, we can’t ignore the irony that — after all the propaganda about the Obama administration coming to take away people’s guns — it is the Trump administration demanding people turn in weapon devices.