Trump Declines to Demand Congress Ban Bump Stocks

Democrats wasted little time following Friday’s Supreme Court decision striking down the ATF’s ban on bump stocks before demanding Congress pass a ban of its own. Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer both issued calls for Congress to act within hours of Friday’s decision, with Schumer noting that it will take Republican help to enact a ban into law. 

So far, most Republicans haven’t taken the bait, including Donald Trump. Though the bump stock ban was enacted during his administration, Trump’s statement that followed the Supreme Court decision in Garland v. Cargill was noticeably missing any sort of call to action.

“The Court has spoken and their decision should be respected,” Karoline Leavitt, Trump’s campaign press secretary said in a statement. 
Leavitt then highlighted the support he won from the National Rifle Association earlier this year.
“President Trump has been and always will be a fierce defender of Americans’ Second Amendment rights and he is proud to be endorsed by the NRA,” Leavitt said Friday.
The Supreme Court decision centered on the power of federal regulatory agencies to ban bump stocks, simple devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to spray bullets much more rapidly. The majority — including three judges that were picked by Trump — concluded that Congress, rather than the agency Trump had directed, would need to take action in order to ban the devices.
But Trump’s statement Friday included no call for Congress to do anything.
Instead, Leavitt turned to immigration, claiming “the right to keep and bear arms has never been more critical” at a time when “our border is open to terrorists and criminals.”
Joe Biden wants to take that right away from law-abiding Americans,” Leavitt said. “President Trump won’t let that happen.”

Biden didn’t just call for Congress to enact a ban on bump stocks. He tied that directly to a ban on so-called assault weapons as well. If he wanted, Trump could have tried to thread the needle by urging Congress to prohibit the sale of bump stocks while rejecting Biden’s demand for a gun ban, but that approach would have undoubtedly riled up 2A organizations. 

I have no idea if Trump has shifted his thinking on a ban since his administration prohibited the devices following the Las Vegas shootings in 2017, but if nothing else his campaign is savvy enough to know you don’t go around calling for new gun laws when you’ve said you won’t do anything to impose new restrictions on lawful owners. 

Given voters’ overwhelming concerns about inflation, employment, and the economy, I doubt Democrats are going to succeed in turning the bump stock ban into a campaign issue. Even if they do, Trump doesn’t have to pivot back to a federal ban on the devices. He can always borrow a page from his strategy on abortion and declare it should be up to the states to decide whether to prohibit their sale and/or possession. That too would carry some risks of alienating gun owners, just as some pro-life groups wish that Trump would take a stronger stance, but with bump stocks already banned in more than a dozen states, it really wouldn’t represent much of a change to the status quo. 

I’d prefer Trump stick with his current stance, but if the campaign sees the need for a minor course correction in the future that’s one option that’s available to them. I’d also like to hear Trump elaborate on his thoughts on the ban and why he believed it was necessary at the time, but then, I also wanted to hear Joe Biden talk about Hunter’s conviction on federal gun charges when he spoke to Everytown for Gun Safety hours after the verdict was announced. Trump’s past support for a bump stock ban isn’t on par with Biden’s current support for the statute that could send his son to prison, but they’re both awkward enough that neither candidate wants to dwell on these issues going forward. 

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