WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans are expressing willingness to look into banning so-called bump stocks, the devices that authorities say allowed the Las Vegas shooter to increase the capacity of his firearm to that of an automatic weapon.
In an interview for Hugh Hewitt’s show on MSNBC, Ryan said, “Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time. Apparently, this allows you to take a semiautomatic and turn it into a fully automatic. So clearly that’s something we need to look into.”
“It seems like it’s an obvious area we ought to explore and see if it’s something Congress needs to act on,” Cornyn said, according to the Times.
Cornyn’s comments are significant because he is the Majority Whip, the No. 2 in Senate leadership. Other senators, like Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have also signaled a willingness to look at the issue of bump stocks.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that it was premature to discuss gun legislation in the wake of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas, in which 59 people were killed in more than 500 injured. The assailant, Stephen Paddock, took his own life before police reached his room at Mandalay Bay hotel, authorities said.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) quickly organized a press conference on Wednesday to unveil legislation to ban bump stocks, as she expressed shock that such a device was on the market that allows a firearm to essentially be converted into an automatic weapon, which is banned. Feinstein told reporters that “the only reason” to use the device is “to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.”
The bill would make it “unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a trigger crank, a bump-fire device or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun.”
More than two dozen Democrats signed on to the legislation in a matter of hours, Feinstein said, but at midday on Wednesday, she had yet to have time to reach out to Republican lawmakers.
Joining her were Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Blumenthal told reporters that on Tuesday morning, as he was working out at the Senate gym, he got the sense from some Republican colleagues that there was an openness to some kind of action.
“A couple of my colleagues said to me, ‘Can’t we do something about this?’ They were watching the images at 6:30 in the morning on the screen of Las Vegas. I think that is the growing sentiment here,” Blumenthal said.
But Blumenthal also noted that in 2013, in the aftermath of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state, it did appear that there was a majority in the Senate willing to pass legislation to expand background checks. It got the support of 54 members, but that was not enough to pass a 60-vote threshold to move forward. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)