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After Florida Shooting, Trump Calls For New Regulations On Bump Stocks

President Trump speaks at the Public Safety Medal of Valor awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.
Evan Vucci
President Trump speaks at the Public Safety Medal of Valor awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

Following the deadly school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14, President Trump is directing the Department of Justice to develop regulations to ban bump stocks.

"Just a few moments ago I signed a memorandum directing the AG to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns. I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized, Jeff, very soon," Trump said, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"We can do more to protect our children. We must do more to protect our children," Trump said ahead of a Medal of Valor awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Shortly before the president made the announcement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump did support "not having the use of bump stocks," but she declined to elaborate on any other gun measures that Trump might back other than efforts to improve background checks.

Bump stocks are used to accelerate a gun's shooting rate.

While there have been no reports that the shooter in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting last week that killed 17 people used such a device, a shooter last October in Las Vegas who massacred 59 people and wounded hundreds others did use bump stocks.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been undergoing a review of bump stock regulation since shortly after that Las Vegas shooting; a public comment period ended Jan. 25. When the ATF last completed a review of bump stock classification in 2010, it concluded that the devices were not regulated under existing gun laws.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores responded to the president's announcement on Tuesday in a statement: "The Department 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."

Many Republicans and even the powerful conservative lobby of the National Rifle Association have supported some regulatory action on bump stocks.

"The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," NRA leaders Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox said last October, shortly after the Las Vegas shooting.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who pushed for legislation last fall to ban bump stocks, said in a statement on Tuesday that she was "glad President Trump finally understands that bump stocks should be illegal" but added that he needs to support the congressional bill to do so because the ATF is unable to take that action alone.

"If ATF tries to ban these devices after admitting repeatedly that it lacks the authority to do so, that process could be tied up in court for years, and that would mean bump stocks would continue to be sold. Legislation is the only answer," Feinstein said. "Words are one thing, Mr. President, but we need meaningful action. If you want these devices off the street, call congressional Republicans and tell them to stop blocking our bill."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.