The National Rifle Association raised a lot of eyebrows when in response to the firearm controversy following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, it issued a statement reading
The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations. In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans' Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities. To that end, on behalf of our 5 million members across the country, we urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence.
It's not clear whether the NRA is suggesting it would support regulation of bump stocks only in return for national right-to-carry reciprocity. It's not clear even if the organization was referring to bump stocks. However, former US Representative Harold Ford (D-TN), a centrist Democrat (to the extent Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would be considered center-left), assumes it was. On Friday evening's Real Time, Ford stated
I was for restrictions and some restraints.
The real takeaway from this is that for the first time in my lifetime, the NRA has demonstrated support for some kind of restraint, therefore blocking, at least for a conversation, this chip that you can put on one of these guns and make it an automatic weapon...
After Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for New York magazine, tried to inject a word, Ford continued
Let me finish my point. But I'm not crazy- understand what I'm saying. I'm 47 years od. I served in Congress ten years. They never expressed even a willingness to have this conversation. Now, that doesn't mean that we should folow their leadership. The fact that we're even here, we shouldn't have these weapons. I would agree with Steve 100% but the reality is I think we're making some progress here, and if Paul Ryan is true to what he (says) that he's going to bring this bill to the floor, you're going to have Democrat and Republican alike supporting this. I think the NRA did this.
Skeptical that this is a major reform, Bill Maher responded "....and that is what you're happy with?" The former congressman replied "No, no, don't put words in my mouth. This is the first time the NRA has ever stepped forward I'm not praising- I'm not a member of the NRA."
Helpfully correcting Ford, Nuzzi noted
If you look at what LaPierre actually said about bump stocks, he said they would maybe look at the issue. He then had to reassure his supporters- the supporters of the NRA- that they would not be banning these things, that they would not be confiscating them.
The technology chief at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 2010 issued an opinionF that "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" because "The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed." The New York Times now explains
The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger, causing the rifle to rapidly fire again and again. The shooter holds his or her trigger finger in place, while maintaining forward pressure on the barrel and backward pressure on the pistol grip while firing.
The bump stock is not banned under federal law even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun without technically converting it to a fully automatic firearm. (It is illegal for private citizens to possess fully automatic firearms manufactured after May 19, 1986; ownership of earlier models requires a federal license.)
“The classification of these devices depends on whether they mechanically alter the function of the firearm to fire fully automatic,” Jill Snyder, a special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said at a news conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “Bump-fire stocks, while simulating automatic fire, do not actually alter the firearm to fire automatically, making them legal under current federal law.”
Recall that the NRA suggested "additional regulations" for "devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles." But the ATF believes bump stocks do not allow the firearm to fire automatically and therefore did not call for regulation of these devices.
By issuing its statement, the NRA might have been pretending it is reasonable. Or it may have been trying to co-opt any initiative to implement real gun safety legislation. Perhaps it was even attempting to give cover to pro-gun (as most are) GOP members of Congress, as when it (and White House advisor Kellyanne Conway) tweaked the "Obama administration" for having "approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions." Whatever its motivation, however, the National Rifle Association has successfully confused and/or convinced much of the mainstrea media and such public figures as Harold Ford.