President Trump and the National Rifle Association got behind the push for outlawing “bump stocks” Thursday, giving rare momentum to gun control legislation in response to the Las Vegas massacre.
The NRA, which for decades has opposed any new restrictions on firearms even after mass shootings, made a sharp pivot minutes before the White House gave the green light to debating a ban on bump stocks.
The Las Vegas shooter used the device to turn his semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire weapons similar to machine guns, producing a hail of gunfire that in 10 minutes killed at least 58 people and wounded nearly 500.
“Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law,” the NRA and its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a joint statement.
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” read the statement, which was issued by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox.
Mr. Trump got aboard the move toward a ban, which already had garnered support from some Republican lawmakers.
“We’re certainly open to that moving forward, but we want to be part of that conversation as it takes place in the coming days and weeks,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Mr. Trump made protecting gun rights a mainstay of his presidential campaign and won an early endorsement from the NRA.
Before the NRA made the surprise announcement, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, dared the president to stand up to the gun rights group.
“Are you going to be the first Republican president in a generation to buck the NRA?” Mr. Schumer asked on the Senate floor.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said he was open to a vote on the ban. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, backed hearings on a ban.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Florida Republican, joined Rep. Seth Moulton, Massachusetts Democrat, to introduce a bipartisan bill to outlaw bump stocks.
Democratic leaders were looking for more.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a leading gun control advocate, applauded Republicans for considering a ban but urged support for her bill, which would outlaw all devices that increase the rate of fire.
“Legislation would make crystal clear that Congress is banning all devices that allow a weapon to achieve an automatic rate of fire, regardless of how a weapon is altered. Such legislation can and will save lives, and Congress should act immediately,” she said.
Ms. Feinstein’s legislation, introduced this week, specifically mentions “trigger cranks,” devices bolted to a rifle’s trigger guard that rapidly pull the trigger when a shooter turns the crank.
Other attacks, escape plan
As the bump stock ban gained momentum, investigators in Las Vegas uncovered disturbing details about the shooter, Stephen Craig Paddock, who apparently planned an escape from the scene and may have plotted other attacks, including a car bomb.
Paddock, 64, killed himself as police closed in on his 32nd-floor suite at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where he had broken out two windows and sprayed gunfire on about 22,000 concertgoers below at an outdoor country music festival.
Paddock also shot into jet fuel tanks at the airport across from his hotel room, possibly trying to set off a massive explosion, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
What turned the millionaire real estate developer and high-stakes gambler into a mass murderer remained a mystery.
Investigators said Paddock had planned a getaway, having stashed more than 50 pounds of explosives and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in his car in the hotel parking lot.
He also booked rooms in hotels near other outdoor events, including at the earlier Life is Beautiful concerts in Las Vegas and possibly at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago and near Fenway Park in Boston, authorities said.
Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said the attack Sunday night was meticulously planned, and he couldn’t rule out that Paddock had help.
“You’ve got to make the assumption he had to have some help at some point,” Sheriff Lombardo said. “Maybe he’s a super guy, maybe he was working out all this on his own, but it would be hard for me to believe that.”
‘Looking for answers’
Mr. Trump, who visited victims and first responders Wednesday in Las Vegas, had said he didn’t want to debate new gun control measures in the immediate aftermath of the most deadly shooting in U.S. history.
The rush to get rid of bump stocks, however, quickly overcame the White House and the NRA.
Other legislation that would expand gun rights also came under attack from Democrats and gun control advocates, but those bills did not appear to be in immediate jeopardy.
One bill would loosen restrictions on buying silencers, which are accurately called suppressors because they do not completely silence shots from firearms.
Another would require states to recognize other states’ permits to carry concealed weapons, known as reciprocity. That would make carry permits similar to driver’s licenses.
Either or both of these bills could be entwined in the debate over banning bump stock.
NRA leaders stressed the organization’s commitment to expanding gun rights.
“In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities. To that end, on behalf of our five million members across the country, we urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence,” they said in the statement.
They also warned that gun control advocates would use the Las Vegas massacre to advance their agenda.
“The American people are looking for answers as to how future tragedies can be prevented. Unfortunately, the first response from some politicians has been to call for more gun control,” the NRA leaders said. “Banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks. This is a fact that has been proven time and again in countries across the world.”
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