As a grieving Florida community demanded action on guns, President Donald Trump on Tuesday directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre. It was a small sign of movement on the gun violence issue that has long tied Washington in knots. We must do more to protect children, Trump said, adding that his administration was working hard to respond to the shooting in Parkland that left 17 dead.
On the protect children, after past mass killings yielded little action on tighter gun controls, the White House is trying to demonstrate that it is taking the issue seriously. The president, a strong and vocal supporter of gun rights, has not endorsed more robust changes sought by gun control activists. But the White House cast the president in recent days as having been swayed by the school shooting in Florida and willing to listen to proposals.
In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump indicated he wants to strengthen the background check system, but offered no specifics.
Trump said: “Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening Background Checks!”
Asked at a press briefing Tuesday if Trump was open to reinstating a ban on assault-type weapons, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said White House officials “haven’t closed the door on any front.” She also said that the idea of raising the age limit to buy an AR-15 was “on the table for us to discuss.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and leading advocate for tighter gun controls, said Trump’s directive suggested the president was aware of fresh energy on the issue and called it a sign that “for the first time” politicians are “scared of the political consequences of inaction on guns.”
A bipartisan legislative effort to ban bump stocks last year fizzled out. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced in December that it was reviewing whether weapons using bump stocks should be considered illegal machine guns under federal law.
Under the Obama administration, the ATF had concluded that bump stocks did not violate federal law. But the acting director of the ATF told lawmakers in December that the ATF and Justice Department would not have initiated the review if a ban “wasn’t a possibility at the end.”
The Justice Department for protect children had not made any announcement regarding its review when Trump on Tuesday signed a memorandum directing the agency to complete the review as soon as possible and propose a rule “banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.”
Reacting to Trump’s memo, the department said in a statement that it “understands this is a priority for the president and has acted quickly to move through the rulemaking process. We look forward to the results of that process as soon as it is duly completed.”