Attorney General Jeff Sessions was directed by President Donald Trump to take aim at banning bump stocks, a rifle accessory which increases the rate of fire for rifles.
President Trump sent a memo to Sessions directing him and the Justice Department to “propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.”
This new memo by President Trump comes after the shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 high school students were shot and killed with an AR-15.
The students and faculty from Parkland have been very vocal and confrontational in their attempt to change policies around guns.
The Justice Department had already announced they were going try to change the rules around bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting which was carried out using the firearm accessory.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) would have to change their legal definition of ‘machine gun’ for this restriction to happen.
According to Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores, the department “understands this is a priority for the President and has acted quickly to move through the rule-making process.”
However, there is a dispute over whether the Justice Department or Congress is supposed to handle this change in policy.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that if the “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,” leading to no action at all.
Kjersten Nelson, professor of political science at North Dakota State, said, “There’s a pretty extensive process for rule changes,” but that these changes would be harder under the legislature.
Nelson said Congress would have a tougher time changing this rule and rules like it because of the legislature’s transparency and the fact that Congress is used to larger bills, explaining that this bill is “not like the earth moving policies that you see” in Congress.
Nelson said any legislation centered around the issue of gun control would be “very difficult” to pass.
This difficulty stems from the polarization and money in Congress coupled with an “incongruity in the nature of the two sides,” according to Nelson.
“The constituency that tends to be pro-gun, for lack of a better term, tends to be very focused on this issue and this issue alone and are always ready to be mobilized on this issue,” she explained. “The side that is pushing for more gun restrictions, tends to be less uniform.”
The side pushing for gun reform are “interested in other issues besides gun issues, and also kind of less attentive until something like Parkland happens,” Nelson said.