Over the past several days, the “bump stock” has become an easy scapegoat for the Las Vegas massacre that killed 59 and wounded almost 500 others, but for some folks, it's never too late to blame Barack Obama.
On “Fox & Friends" on Thursday morning, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway did just that by falsely claiming that "President Obama's ATF decided [it] would not be regulated.”
Conway also falsely claimed that the Trump White House “always welcomes” discussion on these issues when President Donald Trump himself has repeatedly and explicitly refused to do so this week:
“I would just note for the viewers that since 'bump stock' has probably not been in the lexicon before, this is a device that President Obama's ATF decided would not be regulated in 2010.”
The bump stock is an accessory that allows a semi-automatic rifle to achieve a rate of fire similar to that of a machine gun, and the Las Vegas shooter had several of these.
Conway is correct that the devices are not regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, but the Obama ATF didn't “decide” not to regulate them. It lacked the statutory authority to do so, even if it had wanted to, as its letter to the manufacturer explicitly says:
The FTB evaluation confirmed that the submitted stock (see enclosed photos) does attach to the rear of an AR-15 type rifle which has been fitted with a sliding shoulder-stock type buffer-tube assembly. The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed. In order to use the installed device, the shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand. Accordingly, we find that the “bump-stock” is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.
The National Firearms Act is the law that has kept machine guns effectively banned since the 1930s, and it's the law that the NRA and Republicans were hard at work weakening when the Las Vegas shooting occurred. Obama's ATF could no more have approved bump stocks than it could have approved bottled water; it simply wasn't in its power to approve or deny.
Conway miraculously said something that was correct, which is that most Republican lawmakers are ignorant of bump-fire accessories. Now that Republicans see banning bump stocks as a quick way to relieve public pressure after this incident, though, you can expect the vocal enthusiasts for the devices to make themselves known, and even this tiny half-measure will go nowhere.
Watch the full interview below.