The National Rifle Association has broken its silence four days after the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history to call for “additional regulations” on bump-fire stocks, which the Las Vegas shooter used to turn his semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire weapons.
But alongside the rare concession, the NRA also suggested it was time for further relaxation of laws permitting Americans to carry concealed firearms.
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the group’s two leading figures, said in a joint statement.
The NRA pair blamed the Obama administration for approving the devices for sale “on at least two occasions”, and called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law”.
The NRA’s suggestion comes after Republican lawmakers indicated they might support a ban on the devices. Firearms enthusiasts called bump-fire stocks a novelty device that made guns hard to fire accurately, and said they had no real self-defense value.
But in the same statement, the NRA claimed gun control laws would not stop further attacks, and called on Congress to pass a law that would make it easier for owners to carry weapons across state lines – a measure that would gut local restrictions on gun carrying and might make it legal for tourists to carry their firearms on the New York City subway.
Passing this “right-to-carry reciprocity” law, the NRA argued, “will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence”. The NRA said banning guns “will do nothing to prevent future attacks – a fact that has been proven time and again in countries across the world”.
Researchers who study the effects of major gun restrictions – including in Australia, which saw a decline in murders and no further large-casualty mass shootings after buying back hundreds of thousands of guns in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 – would probably disagree.
Moves in Congress
In Washington, Republican leaders said they would consider restrictions on bump stocks, raising the prospect of the first US gun control legislation for years.
“Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time,” the House speaker, Paul Ryan, told MSNBC on Thursday. “Apparently, this [the bump stock] allows you to take a semi-automatic and turn it into a fully automatic. So clearly that’s something we need to look into.”
The mass shooting on Sunday night in Las Vegas that left 58 victims plus the gunman dead and wounded nearly 500 has reopened debate around the need for tougher gun laws.
Officials said 12 of the rifles authorities recovered from the hotel suite used by gunman Stephen Paddock were fitted with bump stocks. “I didn’t even know what they were until this week,” said Ryan, a frequent hunter. “I think we’re quickly coming up to speed with what this is.”
He offered no other details about what action the Republican-controlled House might take or what the timeline would be. But the remarks signalled a shift for a party that has thwarted legislative reform even as the horrors of Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Orlando have piled up.
Nevertheless, for many anti-gun activists, curtailing these devices would be the minimum Congress could do.
If that’s the only action we take after 58 Americans are shot and killed, we should be ashamed of ourselvesShannon Watts, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said: “Of course bump stocks should be prohibited, but if that’s the only action we take after 58 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more injured, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
“We’ll work with legislators interested in prohibiting bump stocks, but we’ll also demand other laws to help save American lives. Now is the time to demand that lawmakers prioritise people over gun manufacturers’ profits.”
Ryan’s comments followed a call on Wednesday by the Senate’s No 2 Republican, John Cornyn, for an examination of bump stocks. “I own a lot of guns and as a hunter and sportsman I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock, and that’s another reason to have a hearing,” he said.
Another Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said: “I have no problem in banning those.”
The White House welcomed the NRA’s statement, but earlier press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “The president’s a strong supporter of the second amendment. That hasn’t changed. At this point in the process, I think we all need to take a step back. We’ve had one of the most horrific tragedies ever on US soil. I don’t think we’d want to go out and make rash decisions while we’re still having an investigation.”
Democrats are pushing for a ban on the devices, which are selling out as gun enthusiasts react to reports they may be outlawed.
Senator Chris Murphy has outlined “a menu” of gun control measures he plans to introduce, including to expand background checks and to restrict people convicted of domestic violence from obtaining a gun.
On Thursday, minority leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor: “I say to President Trump: come out and say that you support and would sign a law to ban bump stocks, the modification used by the Las Vegas gunman to make his weapons automatic. That’s small, and it’s the right thing to do. Don’t wait for the NRA to make up their mind. Do it.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein has also called for bump stocks to be banned. Congressman David Cicilline has also proposed a ban with a bill in the House that he said has 148 co-sponsors.
Bump stocks were originally intended to help people with limited hand mobility fire a semi-automatic without the individual trigger pulls required. They harness the recoil of the gun to allow the user to fire much faster than if they repeatedly pulled the trigger – as the rifle recoils, the trigger bumps forward into the shooter’s finger to speed up the rate of fire.
Meanwhile, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff and senator Richard Blumenthal have reintroduced legislation to hold gun manufacturers, sellers and interest groups accountable when they are deemed to have acted with negligence.
Schiff said: “This bill would pierce the gun industry’s liability shield by putting an end to the special protections the gun industry receives when they shirk their fundamental responsibility to act with reasonable care for the public safety.”
Donald Trump visited Las Vegas on Wednesday but when asked about gun control measures, said: “We’re not going to talk about that today.”
Las Vegas plans to open a memorial “healing garden” on Friday with 58 trees to honour each of those killed in the massacre. It will also have a wall of remembrance, flowers, walkways and benches, “all to create something beautiful out of something horrific”, a city news release said.
Workers on Thursday were preparing soil at a roughly half-acre plot of vacant city-owned land at Charleston and Casino Center boulevards.
Authorities embraced the idea after a local landscaping company, Stonerose Landscapes, proposed and designed the garden as a space for mourning, prayer and reflection. The magicians Siegfried and Roy are among those who have donated a tree.
The garden is due to be open amid First Friday events, a monthly arts festival which is going ahead as planned, a sign that the city is slowly returning to its routine.
A city council meeting on Wednesday had a moment’s silence for the victims before becoming a platform for competing views on gun control. “How stupid do we have to be to allow this to continue to happen?” said Bob Coffin, a Democrat, the LasVegas Review-Journal reported. He urged swift action to curb guns. “Hell, that’s not political, that’s survival.”
A total of 160 firefighters from multiple fire departments across the city responded to the shooting, the Clark County fire chief, Greg Cassell, told reporters. “Our response time to that incident, I can honestly say, for our first arrive unit, was less than five seconds.”
Cassell described a chaotic scene as people jumped over fences, ran into taxi lanes and crowded into nearby hotels. The fire department received more than 32 reports of gunshot victims. A standby crew of 16 paramedics at the concert cared for victims as they were “literally under fire”, he added.