Presidential aide Kellyanne Conway sought to place blame on Barack Obama for his administration's failure to regulate the "bump stock" device that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock is believed to have used to shoot at nearly the rate of automatic weapons on Sunday. Reportedly, Paddock fired at 400 to 600 rounds per minute from his 32nd floor room at the Mandalay Bay casino resort, killing 58 and wounding 500.
A bump stock is a device that was approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the Obama administration. When attached to a semi-automatic rifle, it allows a gun to fire at nearly the rate of a fully automatic weapon. Police say that Paddock used one on Sunday.
Conway criticized Obama and fellow Democrats, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Speaking on CNN's "New Day" on Thursday, Conway said, "It was President Obama's ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in 2010 that decided not to regulate this device." She added, "That should be part of the conversation and part of the facts that you put before your viewers." Conway went on to say, “That should be part of the conversation.”
A manufacturer of bump stocks, Slide Fire, pitched the device in 2010 to federal officials as a way to help shooters with disabilities and “assist persons whose hands have limited mobility to ‘bump-fire’ from an AR-15 type rifle.” ATF subsequently sent a letter to the Texas-based manufacturer saying that it had no objection to the device. Slide Fire has since posted the ATF’s letter of approval for the bump stock on its website.
“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed,” reads the ATF letter. “In order to use the device, the shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the non-shooting hand."
The letter went on to say, “Accordingly, we find that the ‘bump stock’ is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.”
Following the shooting in Las Vegas -- which is believed to be the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to bar the sale and possession of bump stocks. Federal agencies would be exempted. Feinstein has long been an advocate of banning what she has deemed "assault weapons." She has called the sale of bump stocks a “loophole” that should be closed. Several prominent congressional Republicans have expressed interest in reviewing the sale of bump stocks, while the National Rifle Associate also signalled that it may support such legislation.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.