Both Democrats and Republicans, in what is becoming a rare occurrence, appeared to support the same thing last week: a ban on bump stocks, devices found in the room of the Las Vegas gunman that enable rapid-fire shooting.
Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, wrote a bill outlawing them last week. And this Tuesday, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Florida) and Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton (Massachusetts) introduced their own version. It has 10 cosponsors from each party, including Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen.
The ranking Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, told NBC News last week: "I think we're quickly coming up to speed with what [a bump stock] is. ... Clearly that's something that we need to look into."
Apparently by "we" he did not mean actual lawmakers. Even though he said at the time he was open to a vote on it.
The Wisconsin Republican this Wednesday said a restriction on bump stocks should come in the form of a rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, The Hill reports.
So instead of the House and Senate passing a bill and the president signing it into a law, the ATF would simply change the federal regulations for bump stocks.
"We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix," Ryan said, according to The Hill.
It would likely be faster than passing a new law. And there's doubt that a bill would even get through the House and Senate, despite support from both parties, Huffington Post reports.
But there are also drawbacks to that tactic.
For one, a regulatory change is less permanent. Any administration could direct the ATF to change the rule later. Enacting a new law would require the House, Senate and president to approve of a future alteration.
In addition, earlier attempts to restrict bump stocks have failed. The ATF has previously determined that, since a bump stock doesn't have any automatic function itself, it doesn't fall under the agency's firearms regulation purview, USA Today reports. In essence, the ATF doesn't have the authority to enact a ban, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said.
The National Rifle Association, notorious for pushing back against restrictive gun-related measures, also called for more regulations of bump stocks in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting – but requested it go through the ATF.
A vote on a bump stock bill could still happen in the future – but it's less likely without the support of House Speaker Ryan.