Heinrich pushing bill to ban bump stocks
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., has joined a bi-partisan group of lawmakers in submitting a new bill aimed at banning the ownership of bump stocks for firearms.
The new bill, which follows both House and Senate bills filed earlier this year to ban assault weapons, aims to ban the ownership of so called “bump stocks,” a device attached to an automatic rifle that allows it to fire more rapidly as the recoil of each shot forces the rifle’s trigger into the user’s finger for faster cycling.
A bill filed in January aimed at regulating bump stocks as machine guns has not made any traction in Congress and Heinrich’s bill, titled the Banning Unlawful Machinegun Parts Act, faces an uphill battle. It was expected to be filed on June 8 but was not listed on the Congress.gov website as of Friday.
“Bump stocks are designed to kill the most people in the fastest amount of time. They are extraordinarily dangerous and must be banned,” Heinrich posted on his website earlier this month in announcing the bill. “After a bump stock was used in 2017 to kill 60 people in 10 minutes in Las Vegas, Nevada, I led an effort to ban bump stocks nationwide– and succeeded. But now that’s in jeopardy.”
Earlier this year the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, invalidated the ATF rule classifying bump stocks as machine guns under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The ATF classified bump stocks as machine guns in 2018 after the Nevada shooting but did so after 10 previous occasions where it ruled they were not machine guns.
That ruling banned all bump stocks manufactured after 1986 — no bump stocks were produced before 1986.
Heinrich has joined U.S. senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in signing off on the legislation.
“Senator Collins and I worked together last year to successfully pass the bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” Heinrich said. “This bill had many important provisions to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and their communities, and to increase access to mental health care. Now we are ready to pass this gun safety legislation, too.”
The National Rifle Association, which made an amicus brief in the case of the 2018 ruling claiming the AFT had overstepped its authority in banning bump stocks, touted the January ruling as a win for gun owners.
“The Fifth Circuit ultimately held that a bump stock does not meet the federal definition of a machine gun, because it does not allow the firearm to discharge multiple rounds by a single action of the trigger, and ATF’s Rule was not in accordance with the law,” an NRA news brief from January reads. “…Congress, not ATF or the courts, must decide if bump stocks — or any other firearm — should be criminally outlawed, and Congress has not done that with bump stocks.”
Heinrich and his fellow legislators told CNN earlier this month that their bill is necessary to enshrine a ban on bump stocks into federal law and prevent the Supreme Court from potentially striking down the 2017 law altogether and they feel the bill has the potential to become law.
“There’s no good reason any person should have them in their possession. It’s past time we ban these deadly devices for good,” Heinrich told CNN in a released statement.
However, just who will enforce this bill should it become law is one question pro-gun rights advocates are asking.
Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton said the bill, if made law, is meaningless.
“Unless you can write a bill that prevents a criminal from getting a gun, then it doesn’t work,” Helton said Friday. “We are limiting law abiding citizens on their second amendment right when we have criminals with extensive records walking down the street. There are more important things to be doing than worrying about a piece of plastic that goes on a firearm.”
Helton specifically cited New Mexico’s 2016 bail reform as a major problem for public safety.
In 2016, New Mexico passed a constitutional amendment to reform bail practices in the state. The intention of the amendment was to ensure the courts do not detains suspects solely because they cannot post bond and opened the door for judges to impose conditions of release that were required to be “the least restrictive possible while ensuring public safety.”
The result has been far from glorious with cries from across the state to reform the reform.
“That guy SWAT was looking for the other day, he’s been around my whole career and he shot a guy. That wasn’t his first time, and he was out on the street.” Helton said, of the search for fugitive Richard Leyva in Hobbs earlier this month.
Helton added there are lots of important issues facing New Mexico he feels Heinrich should focus on besides bump stocks.
“He should be fighting for the ranchers and water rights of this state, not this stupid stuff,” he said.