With top Republicans and Democrats calling for action to regulate the sale and possession of “bump stocks,” the device that allowed the Las Vegas mass killer to fire semi-automatic assault rifles nearly as fast as machine guns, the moment is ripe for a deal.
Who better to strike one than President Donald Trump?
The president has reportedly been frustrated with the pace of business on Capitol Hill, lashing out at top members of his party for failing to move his agenda. The gridlock even led him to strike an agreement with Democrats last month, over the objections of GOP leaders, to fund the federal government and raise the debt limit.
The self-proclaimed dealmaker has so far refrained from speaking about guns in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, which killed nearly 60 people and injured some 500 more.
“We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on,” Trump said Tuesday.
“We won’t talk about that today,” he added Wednesday in response to a question about whether America had a gun violence problem. He had just met with victims of the shooting.
The issue of bump stocks, however, offers Trump a golden opportunity to call for action on a common-sense issue and portray himself as a bipartisan leader who can get things done. In addition to the usual Democratic support for a gun control measure, an increasing number of Republicans are calling for scrutiny of bump stocks, and some are outright saying they should be banned.
“For Trump, this is something he could do quickly on his own that would help lead Congress to move. And if you’re Donald Trump and love positive headlines, this would accomplish both,” said Doug Heye, a longtime GOP operative.
Of course, not all Republicans would be on board.
Some conservatives are already warning that banning bump stocks could lead to other gun control measures ― the “slippery slope” argument that Second Amendment advocates have made for years to oppose any firearms regulation. And Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) told reporters on Thursday that the National Rifle Association ― the main gun lobby ― had reached out “in concern” about his call to ban bump stocks.
Even something as simple as a tweet from Trump could help give reluctant GOP lawmakers cover on this issue.
“Without him, this is an exercise in futility,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told reporters this week, adding that a bump stock ban would be a “reasonable” step.
Manchin helped lead the last major bipartisan push on gun control alongside Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Their proposal to expand background checks on purchases of firearms ultimately did not pass. Toomey said this week that he would be interested in reviving the measure.
Trump could also take immediate administrative action to regulate bump stocks by directing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ban the devices.
The NRA announced Thursday that devices like bump stocks “should be subject to additional regulations” in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, suggesting that the president ought to take administrative action on the matter. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also told reporters on Thursday that the administration would “be open to having a conversation” about bump stocks.
Ari Fleischer, a Trump supporter and former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, urged Trump to take action on Thursday. Fleischer further warned Democrats not to push for additional gun measures because that could threaten bipartisan support for a bump stock ban.
“If I were a Democrat, I wouldn’t amend a bump stock ban with broader gun control efforts. Join together and get something done. Please,” Fleischer tweeted.
This story has been updated with information about the NRA’s bump stock announcement.