How quickly they forget
Remember bump stocks?
If so, then you’re probably not a lawmaker. Most of them seem to have forgotten.
A bump stock is a molded piece of plastic or metal that a gun owner can affix to a firearm, allowing a semi-automatic rifle to behave like a fully automatic one, with a faster firing rate, up to as many rounds as 800 per minute.
Stephen Paddock, from a 32nd floor suite of the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas, used a bump stock to massacre 58 country music concert-goers and injure some 500 more last October. That was more than four months ago.
It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
A bipartisan coalition in Congress and the National Rifle Association (NRA) immediately called for more regulation of bump stocks, including an outright ban.
Congressional Republicans said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF) should handle the regulation. The ATF said it can’t do so without a change in the federal law. The ATF had ruled in 2010 that bump stocks are legal.
The Department of Justice is (supposedly) conducting a review of the federal legalities. Heard anything about that in the past few months? Me neither.
A few weeks after the Las Vegas massacre, both U.S. senators from Iowa indicated their interest in investigating the possibility of tougher bump stock regulation. Sen. Joni Ernst was among nine senators who asked the ATF to review its 2010 rule.
And Sen. Chuck Grassley scheduled a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on firearms accessories. While he didn’t say he would support a law to ban bump stocks, he noted that for 80 or 90 years submachine guns have been outlawed, and that in 1986 automatic weapons were made illegal.
“It seems to me that common sense would say they ought to restrict it, I mean, do away with the rule,” Grassley said in November.
Grassley also noted that after the Sandy Hook, Conn., school shooting in 2013, his bill to require states and local governments to submit to the federal government the names of people who should be barred from buying guns got 57 votes.
But that was three votes short of the 60 needed to send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
Grassley and Ernst may have spoken out against bump stocks since then. But if they have, no such comments have made the news to my knowledge. The same is true for Greene County’s U.S. Rep. Steve King. If I’m wrong, I would quickly apologize.
After the Las Vegas shooting, bills were proposed in both the Senate and the House to completely ban bump stocks. No action was taken, and the NRA opposes those bills. (No surprise there.)
So a number of states have stepped up on the subject. At least 15 states have adopted or are considering laws to ban bump stocks. So have cities. Columbia, S.C., adopted such a law late last year. Denver is considering similar action. They’re already illegal in California, and Massachusetts enacted a similar law in November.
The use of bump stocks had already been illegal in New Jersey, but last month that state made it illegal to possess or sell them as well. Owners have 90 days to surrender them to law enforcement officers, and retailers must turn them in within 30 days.
What about Iowa?
On Jan. 30, two weeks ago, 15 Democrats in the Iowa House introduced a bill, House File 2144, that would ban the manufacture, possession, transportation, shipment or receipt of bump stocks. Violation would constitute a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500.
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which has a Republican majority, as do all Iowa legislative committees.
No Republican was listed as an initial sponsor of the bill.
It has not been assigned to a subcommittee.
It will surprise me if the bill has any legs at all.