The National Rifle Association has joined an effort to restrict a device that was used to accelerate gunfire in the Las Vegas massacre, after the White House and top Republicans signaled a willingness to debate the issue in response to the tragedy.
âIn Las Vegas, reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved. .â.â. The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,â the NRAâs executive vice president and chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, said in a joint statement with Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.
The statement from the NRA â its first since Sundayâs shooting â was expected to galvanize the effort to further regulate bump fire stocks, or bump stocks.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said Thursday that lawmakers will consider further rules for the devices, which allow legal semiautomatic rifles to fire as rapidly as more heavily restricted automatic weapons.
âClearly thatâs something we need to look into,â Ryan said on MSNBC. He said he did not know what bump stocks were before Sundayâs shooting, which left at least 58 dead and hundreds injured.
âThis is definitely an area where weâre going to look and be able to act on,â McCarthy said on Fox News.
âWeâre going to look at the issue,â Goodlatte told The Washington Post.
On Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that President Trump was open to having the conversation. âWe think that we should have that conversation. And we want to be part of it moving forward,â Sanders said during the White House press briefing.
Ryan, McCarthy and Goodlatte are among a widening group of Republican lawmakers who have said they are open to debating further restrictions on bump stocks. The growing willingness to address the issue within the GOP stands in contrast to the partyâs usual opposition to measures to restrict firearm use and access, and it could help lawmakers combat the perception that Congress has done nothing to address mass shootings.
It does not hurt that these particular restrictions might not garner as much resistance from the NRA as other gun-control proposals. The group exerts considerable influence on the GOPâs approach to gun policy, and many Republicans fear that opposing it could lead the group to retaliate in primary elections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as of Thursday had not indicated that he is onboard. He told reporters Tuesday that it is âcompletely inappropriate to politicize an event like thisâ and declined to answer further questions on the subject.
Asked Thursday about McConnellâs position, a spokesman referred to the leaderâs comments earlier in the week.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who returned to Congress last week after surviving a shooting in Alexandria, Va., in July â echoed McConnell in an interview Wednesday.
âI think itâs a shame,â he said, âthat the day somebody hears about a shooting, the first thing they think about is, âHow can I go promote my gun-control agenda?â as opposed to saying, âHow do I go pray and help the families that are suffering?âââ
In Congress, support for a bump-stock ban is starting to coalesce around several bills.
One, unveiled Wednesday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would ban the sale, transfer and manufacture of bump stocks, trigger cranks and other accessories that can accelerate a semiautomatic rifleâs rate of fire.
Feinsteinâs bill had support from 38 Democrats as of Thursday morning, including Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), who both face uphill fights for reelection next year.
âThe notion that weâre allowing an add-on that allows people to convert a semiautomatic weapon to an automatic weapon â weâve got to address that,â McCaskill said.
Democratsâ electoral map might complicate the debate.
Ten Democratic senators, including McCaskill, face reelection bids in mostly rural states that Trump easily won in the 2016 election.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a statement that she did not know much about bump stocks, âand I first want to learn more about them.â
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said that Feinsteinâs idea âsounds sensible and reasonable to meâ but that he would consult hunters in his state before taking a position.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the House, a bill from Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) would focus on bump stocks and leave out restrictions on other gun accessories.
Curbelo said he had been âfloodedâ with requests from Republicans who want to sign on to the measure, which he planned to introduce by the end of the day Thursday.
âI think we are on the urge of breakthrough where when it comes to sensible gun policy,â said Curbelo, a moderate Republican who represents a Miami-area district. âItâs obvious that this is a flagrant circumvention of the law, and no member of Congress should support any circumvention of existing law.â
Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced legislation similar to Feinsteinâs in the House. It had 140 sponsors as of Wednesday night.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the sheer carnage of Sundayâs mass shooting is fueling lawmakersâ interest in the issue.
âLook at Las Vegas. Thatâs how I account for it,â he told reporters. âAmericans are horrified by it. Theyâre horrified, and they should be. I mean, itâs the biggest killing in American history.â
McCain, who supported expanding the national gun background-check program in 2013, said he is open to supporting Feinsteinâs proposal but wants to see the details first.
In a sign of the far-reaching interest in the issue, even Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), an ardent conservative, suggested he is open to supporting the bill. âNot yet,â he said. âI think I probably will eventually.â
Some lawmakers are pursuing a different approach to banning bump stocks that could preempt legislation.
Two House Republicans with military backgrounds, Reps. Mike Gallagher (Wis.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), were gathering signatures Thursday for a bipartisan letter asking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revisit its 2010 administrative determination that bump stocks are legal.
A group of Democrats made the same request in their own letter to ATF.
Bump stocks were unknown to many members of Congress before Sundayâs shooting, and lawmakers across the political spectrum said they have since turned to YouTube to watch videos showing how the devices work.
âThatâs what I did yesterday,â said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), adding that many of her colleagues have done the same. âI donât think most people in the Senate were familiar with this.â
Even some of the most avid supporters of gun rights said they had not heard of bump stocks before this week.
âThis is such a new component to me, I have no idea how it operates, how simple it is,â said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who has sponsored numerous bills to expand gun rights, including a stalled effort to partially deregulate silencers. He said conversations are underway among conservatives about how to approach the issue.
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who like Duncan belongs to the House Second Amendment Caucus, also said he was researching the accessory.
âBut if it allows a semiautomatic to do what that guy did?â he said. âI think we need to have serious considerations if weâre going to allow that.â
Democrats in the Senate are planning to introduce additional gun-control legislation, though it seems unlikely to move in the Republican-controlled chamber.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a fierce gun-control advocate since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said he would reintroduce a plan to no longer allow gun dealers to sell weapons after three days if the FBI has not yet completed a background check on the buyer.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) will reintroduce a bill aimed at strengthening the national background-check system.
And Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) plans to reintroduce legislation that would allow qualified gun owners to use âsmart gunâ technology that restricts who can use a weapon.