Our Pledge To You

News

NRA asks feds to review legality, regulation of bump stocks

A bump stock device, (left) that fits on a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing speed, making it similar to a fully automatic rifle, is shown on a AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, (right). Congress is talking about banning this device after it was reported to have been used in the Las Vegas shootings. | George Frey/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The National Rifle Association has become an unlikely voice in a growing chorus calling for the federal government to do something about so-called “bump stocks” in the wake of Sunday’s Las Vegas massacre.

On Thursday, the NRA issued a statement saying the “bump stocks” device the Las Vegas shooter used to turn semi-automatic rifles into fully automated weapons should be “subject to additional regulations.”

A growing number of leading Republicans were showing a surprising willingness to take a step, however small, in the direction of regulating guns in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre.

The NRA says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law. But the organization, which holds a powerful sway over members of Congress, dismissed some of the initial response from lawmakers who have pressed for more gun control.

Said the NRA: “Banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks.”

By using a bump stock, the killer in Las Vegas was able to spray gunfire into the crowd below much more quickly, with lethal results, exposing what some lawmakers said looked like a loophole in gun laws.

“I didn’t even know what they were until this week, and I’m an avid sportsman, so I think we’re quickly coming up to speed with what this is,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an interview on MSNBC. “Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time. Apparently this allows you to take a semi-automatic and turn it into a fully automatic so clearly that’s something that we need to look into.”

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, has made similar comments, as have other Republicans. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill Wednesday to ban the devices, and a companion measure has been introduced in the House.

But it’s not yet clear whether, having opened the door to cracking down on weapons, Republicans will actually walk through it. Inaction has been the norm for the GOP following other mass shootings in the past, including the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, massacre of schoolchildren five years ago, last year’s bloodbath at the Pulse nightclub in Florida, and a baseball field shooting this year in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise came close to death.

The powerful National Rifle Association already had begun talking with lawmakers behind the scenes. GOP Rep. Bill Flores of Texas said Thursday that he got a concerned call from the NRA after expressing his support on Wednesday for regulating bump stocks.

Flores declined to detail the conversation, which he said took place between the NRA and his chief of staff, but reiterated his view: “Automatic weapons are subject to licensure, and if there’s something that makes another type of weapon behave as an automatic weapon it ought to be subject to that same licensure.”

“We as a nation need to look at that particular issue,” he said.

The devices, known as “bump stocks” among other names, are legal and originally were intended to help people with limited hand mobility fire a semi-automatic without the individual trigger pulls required. They can fit over the rear shoulder-stock assembly on a semi-automatic rifle and with applied pressure cause the weapon to fire continuously, increasing the rate from between 45 and 60 rounds per minute to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute, according to Feinstein’s office.

The government gave its seal of approval to selling the devices in 2010 after concluding that they did not violate federal law.

The chairmen of the judiciary committees in the House and Senate have indicated openness to learning more about the issue, but without committing to holding hearings.

“If you’re going to have a meaningful hearing, you’ve got to know what your hearing is about. The investigation into the Las Vegas shooting is still ongoing, and we need to get more information before making a decision on a hearing and what it might cover,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Nevada GOP Rep. Mark Amodei said the topic came up with President Donald Trump as they returned to Washington on Air Force One from Las Vegas on Thursday. Amodei said Trump sounded open to looking at the issue.