GOP shrugs off gun control after latest mass shooting
Momentum for gun control saw a brief sign of life after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history last month, with Republicans joining Democrats in weighing restrictions to bump stocks.
But the GOP-controlled Congress hasn’t pushed forward any bills, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has yet to curb the gun accessory that authorities say was used to kill nearly 60 concertgoers in Las Vegas.
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And after the latest mass shooting at a rural Texas church on Sunday, proposals to restrict firearms appeared no likelier to advance on Capitol Hill.
Senior Republicans said Monday that it wasn’t clear what lawmakers could do in response to the latest tragedy, when more than two dozen people, including several children, were gunned down during a Sunday service in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“Do you pass more laws when the laws that are on the books were likely violated? And would that have made a difference?” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday. “I think those are all going to be questions we need to ask ourselves, but I think right now, the fog of this event is not yet lifted and we need to know the answers before we know how to act.”
Cornyn was among more than a half-dozen Senate Republicans who wrote to ATF last month, asking the agency to review a decision under the Obama administration that allowed bump stocks — which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like fully automatic firearms — to be sold.
The Texas senator said Monday that the Republicans had yet to hear back from ATF.
But separately, ATF officials privately briefed staff members on the Senate and House judiciary committees and stressed that the bureau doesn’t believe it has the legal authority to regulate bump stocks.
During the Oct. 12 and 13 briefings, bureau officials explained why they lack the powers to regulate the devices. And while the agency did not request legislative action, officials made clear that was the only way bump stocks could be federally controlled or banned, according to several meeting attendees or others briefed on the matter.
An ATF spokeswoman declined to comment.
In an interview Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he plans to hold a hearing soon with ATF officials on bump stocks. An aide said preparations for a hearing are underway, but did not offer a date.
When “somebody invents something that makes a regular rifle automatic, then, you know, that’s a legitimate question to ask,” Grassley said. He also said the ATF will explain during the hearing why the Obama administration allowed the devices to be sold “when they’re anti-gun to begin with.”
But Grassley declined to endorse legislation that would ban bump stocks outright.
“I’m going to wait until after the hearing before I answer that,” Grassley said in the interview.
The House has also yet to act on bump stocks despite lawmakers introducing several bills after the Las Vegas shooting that would strictly regulate the firearms accessory or ban it outright.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last month that regulatory action by ATF was “the smartest, quickest fix.” His office did not return a request for comment Monday asking whether the speaker’s position had changed given ATF’s belief it doesn’t have the authority to regulate bump stocks.
The ATF will brief members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on the “technical aspects of the device and its use,” a meeting sources said they expected to be similar to the staff briefing in October.
But Democrats on the committee say privately they aren’t hopeful GOP leaders will do much more beyond that, despite sending a letter last week — before the Texas church massacre — to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) urging him to hold hearings on gun violence.
“Although these concerns are broader than the ‘bump stock’ issue that has come to light because of the Las Vegas shooting, clearly these devices pose a danger to our citizens, and our laws regarding these devices must be formally examined,” Judiciary Democrats wrote in the Nov. 1 letter.
Goodlatte said Monday that the use of bump stocks in Las Vegas is “extremely concerning” and he was committed to examining regulations over the device “to see if they need improving.”
As for the latest mass shooting, top Republicans called for more clarity in how the gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, obtained the guns he used to kill at least 26 people on Sunday before they’d engage in substantive discussions about any legislation.
Kelley, who served in the U.S. Air Force, was denied a license to carry a firearm. But the Air Force said in a statement that it did not submit the criminal background of Kelley, who was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and stepson, to the National Criminal Information Center database. He would have been barred by federal law from owning or buying firearms because of the conviction.
The Department of Defense requested on Monday evening that the department’s inspector general investigate the handling of Kelley’s criminal records. The inspector general will also look at whether Kelley’s conviction was properly entered into the national database used for background checks.
“The Senate Armed Services Committee will conduct rigorous oversight of the Department’s investigation into the circumstances that led to this failure,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said late Monday night. “It’s critical that each of the military services take the steps necessary to ensure that similar mistakes have not occurred and will not occur in the future.”
A spokesman for Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said the senator and his aides are talking with other offices to see if there could be improvements in sharing data under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after the Texas shooting. But other Republicans held off on similar moves.
“You know, it’s hard to envision a foolproof way to prevent individual outrages by evil people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday in Louisville. “I mean, last week in New York, you had a person who figured out he could kill people by driving his automobile up on the sidewalk. It’s a very, very challenging thing.”
via Politico http://politi.co/2lnbIsw
November 6, 2017 at 04:08PM