Bump stock ban progresses
On Wednesday, Nov. 28, the Trump administration announced that it would implement a ban on bump stocks on guns, which essentially allow semi-automatic rifles to fire at a higher, more lethal rate (NYT, “Trump Administration Is Set to Ban Bump Stock Devices on Guns,” 11.28.2018). This move was prompted by the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, which resulted in the deaths of 58 people. The shooter’s hotel contained 22 guns, 14 of which had bump stocks. This technology allowed the guns to fire nine rounds per second (NYT, “Trump Administration Is Set to Ban Bump Stock Devices on Guns,” 11.28.2018; NBC, “Nearing Las Vegas shooting anniversary, Justice Department moves ahead on bump stock ban,” 10.01.2018).
Manufacturing fully automatic weapons, which are commonly known as machine guns, is illegal if they were made after 1986, but bump stocks can be a loophole around this law (Vox, “Trump administration to ban bump stocks for guns,” 11.29.2018). According to the Associated Press, “The device basically replaces the gun’s shoulder rest, with a ‘support step’ that covers the trigger opening. By holding the pistol grip with one hand and pushing forward on the barrel with the other, the shooter’s finger comes in contact with the trigger. The recoil causes the gun to buck back and forth, ‘bumping’ the trigger” (Vox). In other words, bump stocks allow the gun to continually fire with one trigger pull rather than pulling the trigger separately for each shot, causing it to act like a machine gun while remaining legal to purchase and use.
The ban proposal has been in progress for months. In March, Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that he would amend the definition of a machine gun to include bump stocks under federal law. On Sept. 27, 2018, the Justice Department submitted its proposal to ban bump stocks, which launched the Office of Management and Budget’s 90-day review period (CNN, “Trump says ban on ‘bump stocks’ coming,” 10.02.2018). Once the ban, which includes the manufacture, importation and possession of bump stocks, takes place, those who currently own the devices will be required to destroy them (NBC).
However, the question remains as to how effectively this move will prevent gun violence. While it is a start, some activists continue to push for more comprehensive gun control legislation. According to a tweet from February, Trump expressed that he is considering some measures for stricter gun control, such as more detailed background checks and raising the legal purchase age from 18 to 21 (Twitter, [at]realDonaldTrump, 02.22.2018).
Democratic politicians have lauded the step toward prohibiting bump stocks, but even some conservative organizations support the ban. The NRA stated that it would not oppose legislation, claiming, “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations” (NBC).
—Laila Volpe, Contributing Editor
Michael Cohen pleads guilty
To avoid serving time in jail, Former attorney for President Trump Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in Trump’s effort to build a Trump Tower in Russia in 2016. Cohen’s team argued in court that by cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s involvement with Russia, Cohen has taken responsibility for his crimes (CNBC, “Trump’s Ex-Lawyer Michael Cohen Asks to Avoid Prison Time After Plea Deal in Mueller Probe,” 12.01.18).
Cohen worked for The Trump Organization for a decade as executive vice president and Trump’s legal counselor. He was previously close with Trump, and he even said in a 2011 interview, “They say I’m Mr. Trump’s pitbull, that I’m his right-hand man. I’ve been called many different things around [The Trump Organization].” Cohen’s relationship with Trump began to fall apart after Cohen got in legal trouble because of acts he performed for Trump, such as paying pornographic actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to not speak out about an alleged extra-marital affair with Trump. Eventually, Cohen and Trump became so estranged that Cohen urged voters to vote against Trump in the midterm elections (CNN, “Who is Michael Cohen,” 11.29.18).
Cohen claims that he had a conversation with the Kremlin about building a Trump Tower in Russia and informed Trump of this conversation (CNBC). According to CNN, Cohen’s guilty plea reveals that Trump was involved in financial affairs with Russia during his campaign. His confession could also cause political trouble for the president if it connects with other information that Mueller is gathering from his investigation. Cohen previously told Congress that his discussions with Russia had ended in January of 2016, yet he has recently confessed that they continued thereafter. Cohen indicated that he lied to be loyal to Trump, claiming, “I made these statements to be consistent with [Trump’s] political messaging and out of loyalty to [Trump]” (CNN, “Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Says He Lied About Trump’s Knowledge of Moscow Project,” 11.29.18).
According to Democratic Representative for New York Jerry Nadler, Cohen’s guilty plea demonstrates that Russia harbored influence over Trump during his campaign: “The fact that he was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia and the Kremlin knew he was lying gave the Kremlin a hold over him.” Nadler further wondered if Russia still held power over Trump, asking, “One question we have now is, does the Kremlin still have a hold over him because of other lies that they know about?” (NBC, “Cohen Cooperation is Proof of Russian ‘leverage’ over Trump, incoming House Judiciary says,” 12.02.18).
Trump responded to Cohen’s guilty plea in a tweet, writing, “He lied for this outcome, and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence” (Washington Post, “Trump says Cohen deserves a ‘full and complete’ sentence,” 12.03.18). He also accused Cohen of being weak, claiming, “He’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.” Further, Trump defended his interactions with Russia during his campaign: “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?” (The New York Times, “Cohen Pleads Guilty and Details Trump’s Involvement in Moscow Tower Project,” 11.29.18). While reducing a potentially long prison sentence for himself, Cohen’s plea may have drawbacks for Trump, as Cohen’s crimes implicate Trump as a co-conspirator.
—Olivia Watson, Guest Reporter