In a rare move, the National Rifle Association has called for a fresh look and potentially restrictions on a gun accessory.
In this case, they're focused on "bump stocks," devices fresh on folks minds after the shooter in Las Vegas last week used them to replicate automatic fire on his semi-automatic weapons.
The question we're looking to answer has been seen in headlines like this Breitbart: "Obama's ATF approved bump stocks in 2010"
Or more clearly in this release from Senator Jon Cornyn's Office:"Cornyn Urges Review of Obama-era Bump Stock Ruling"
The underlying question - did the Obama administration approve the use of the tool?
Our sources for this story: Official documents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm Bureau as well as statements by the NRA. Finally, we spoke with University of Texas Professor Sean Theriault and Ed Espinoza, the head of Progress Texas.
First a refresher, bump stocks are a modification to a guns stock, the part you hold against your shoulder. They have a sliding mechanism so that when the gun fires, the recoil actually pushes the gun back onto your finger, simulating automatic gun fire
Senator Cornyn's letter urges the ATF to quote: "review the Obama Administration's interpretation and issue your own interpretation."
Two documents show the "interpretation" in question: ATF approvals issued in 2010 and 2012 to companies Bumpfire Systems and "SlideFire." They reference a "bump stock" intended to "assist persons whose hands have limited mobility to 'bump-fire' an AR-15 rifle."
Both companies products were approved.
The ATF reasoned that "the stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed."
"It certainly happened during the Obama administration," UT Professor Sean Theriault explained, "At a time when Obama's appointees were in charge of the Department of Justice."
As Professor Theriault confirmed, we can verify that bump stocks were approved for sale by the ATF during President Obama's term, but he further explains the titles can be a bit misleading.
"By no means was this his directive that came down from the White House that they had to act in this way," Theriault explained. "Technology changes, times change and the bureaucracy is still charged with matching up that law with what's taking place on the ground...They were simply looking at the law and then making an interpretation of what this device does in light of the law."
At this point, either President Trump's administration or Congress could make changes to address bump stocks specifically.