WASHINGTON (AP) — New federal rules would be "the smartest, quickest" way to regulate the device the gunman in the Las Vegas massacre used to heighten his firepower, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday in remarks that suggested Congress was unlikely to act first.
It remains unclear, however, what if any action the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will take on so-called bump stocks. The agency has said that once it issues a ruling on a weapon or equipment, it revises its stance only if gun laws or the equipment itself have changed.
The bureau decided in 2010 that bump stocks did not violate federal law, and gun statutes and the design of the mechanism have been unchanged since then. Ryan, R-Wis., said lawmakers are trying to figure out why the bureau has allowed the sale of bump stocks.
"This is a regulation that probably shouldn't have happened in the first place," Ryan told reporters.
He added, "We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix."
ATF spokeswoman Mary Markos declined to say whether the White House or Justice Department could or will compel the agency to re-evaluate its 2010 decision.
Bump stocks can be attached to a semi-automatic rifle to fire continuously, discharging 400 to 800 rounds in one minute. That can transform guns into fully automatic weapons, which are strictly regulated.
The devices were found in the arsenal of gunman Stephen Paddock, who fired from a high-rise hotel into a packed country music festival, leaving 58 dead and more than 500 wounded. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.