In uncommon arms-control move, NRA endorses crackdown on rapid-fire ‘bump stock’ devices
Top US gun-rights group says it is willing to look at restrictions against device used by Las Vegas gunman
The largest gun-lobbying group in the United States said devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to function like automatic firearms should be subject to new regulations after a growing number of Republican lawmakers said they are open to such restrictions.
Following a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, in which the gunman had weapons modified to allow rapid firing, the National Rifle Association (NRA) called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether the “bump stock” devices used to modify semi-automatics comply with federal law.
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the group said in a statement on Thursday. The NRA also criticised politicians seeking to ban guns, saying doing so would not prevent a “criminal act of a madman.”
For years, Republican lawmakers have been largely in line with the NRA, which has long objected to new restrictions. The shooting in Las Vegas, in which 58 people were killed, has brought new attention to bump stocks, aftermarket accessories that allow more rapid firing, and prompted Republicans’ comments. Many Democrats have long called for much stricter gun laws.
With the NRA and Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, open to more strict regulation of bump stocks, it stands a good chance of taking affect.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told MSNBC changing the law is “something we need to look into.”
“I didn’t even know what they were until this week and I’m an avid sportsman,” Ryan said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House wants to engage with Congress on the debate over bump stocks. “We welcome that,” she told reporters on Thursday. “We want to be part of the discussion.”
On Wednesday, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No 2 Republican leader, said he’s open to considering new limits on bump stocks and called for a hearing. Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, called for a ban on the devices.
“My reaction was that this was all designed to kill or injure as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and that’s the reason why automatic weapons are generally not available,” Cornyn said on Thursday. “No sportsmen or hunter uses them.”
Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said he does not see a need for the devices to be legal but wants to hear more about the accessories before making a final decision. Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake made similar comments.
“I’m open to finding out about it and maybe putting it on the category that would be outlawed,” Inhofe said.
Other Republican senators, including Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Thune of South Dakota, said they are considering whether changes are needed.
Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said he wants more study of the bump stocks and is not ready to call for a ban. “For a guy from Wyoming who owns plenty of guns, it’s something I’d never heard of until yesterday,” he said. “This news is terrible and what’s happened is a great tragedy.”
The NRA statement reiterated its position that “banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks.” The group also urged Congress to pass legislation that would require states to recognise right-to-carry permits issued by all other states.
Democrats, including Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, on Wednesday introduced legislation banning aftermarket products designed to allow more rapid firing.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called on lawmakers to add various new restrictions, including bolstered background checks of gun purchasers and a ban on bump stocks.
But Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said her party should be careful not to push too hard.
“Let’s stay focused on the possible,” she said. Right now, she added, lawmakers in both parties are talking about bump stocks and “I’d like us to stay focused on it.”
Selling and manufacturing automatic weapons has been illegal since 1986, and weapons purchased before then are regulated by the federal government. Products to modify semi-automatic firearms are legal.
Bump stocks “may be an area where we need to look to be sure the law is not being subverted,” said Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.
Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said lawmakers are drafting a letter to ATF seeking more information. Meadows said he does not understand why someone would want to buy one.