D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) plans to propose legislation that would make it illegal to possess bump stocks in the nation’s capital, a largely symbolic move that city officials hope will draw Congress into the contentious gun debate.
The devices are used to accelerate the firing of semiautomatic rifles, which already are prohibited in the District. City officials said they want to add bump stocks to a list of banned weapon accessories and provoke discussion on Capitol Hill.
Unlike in the states, Congress has veto power over the District’s laws — and must first review them. While local leaders traditionally fight against such oversight, the mayor this time wants to use the federal power to force federal lawmakers to publicly choose sides on the issue.
“We’re using an unnecessary intrusion to make a broader point,” said Kevin Donahue, the deputy mayor for public safety.
He said the administration believes the District’s bill could be in front of Congress faster than a bill proposed on the Hill. Once the District law is before Congress, “they could actively disapprove a bump stock ban, or they could tacitly approve . . . Either way, they’ll be on record,” Donahue said.
Bowser first mentioned the bump stock bill on Monday, toward the end of remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General. She told top law enforcement officials that if passed, the measure will be sent “directly to Congress. They will either comment on it or they won’t, and it will become law of the land in Washington, D.C.”
In a statement, Bowser said President Trump has suggested banning bump stocks without waiting for Congress. Bowser made it clear she wants to force action. “If the president won’t send a bump stock ban to Congress, we will,” she said in her statement.
Trump also has indicated a willingness to consider new laws over background checks and raising the minimum age to purchase weapons. But Republican leaders in Congress have given no indication legislation is imminent.
But Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said that he doubts the bill will get the attention Bowser wants and that he does not believe it is needed among other gun restrictions in the District.
He said most District laws, including those pertaining to firearms, have made it through passive congressional review. “I see no reason why this would be any different,” Mendelson said. Laws rise to a vote only if a member objects and seeks to overturn a particular measure.
Mendelson also stressed that D.C. law already bars the kind of weapons bump stocks are used with.
Three states ban bump stocks, and some governors have said they would support new restrictions, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican and supporter of the National Rifle Association who rejected such measures in the past. But those states can enact laws without the consent of Congress.
A bump stock ban in the District would add to some of the nation’s most restrictive gun regulations. Registering and carrying a handgun in D.C. requires gun owners to undergo a long list of qualifications, including safety training, fingerprinting and background checks. Gun rights advocates have scored victories, most recently making it easier for people to carry concealed handguns in public places.
All assault-style weapons are banned in the District, including the AR-15, which was used to kill 17 people at this month’s mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. The shooter’s rifle did not have a bump stock, though the devices were found on guns used to kill 58 people in Las Vegas in October.
Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.