Gun Control Debate Reignites after Las Vegas

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Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) points to an image of a bump stock attached to a rifle during a press conference along with Senator Blumenthal (D-CT).
Source: Ed Kilgore, “‘Bump-Stock’ Bill Offers Chance to Isolate Second Amendment Absolutists,” nymag.com, Oct. 5, 2017

In the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, in which more than 50 people were killed and over 500 injured in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, the debate over gun control has been reignited in Congress.

On Oct. 4, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and over 30 cosponsors introduced the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of gun accessories such as bump stocks and trigger cranks. These accessories modify legal semi-automatic weapons to fire like illegal fully automatic weapons; the Las Vegas shooter used bump stocks to modify his assault rifles.

Some Republican members of the Senate, including John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Ron Johnson (R-WI), indicated their openness to holding a hearing on the issue of regulating or banning bump stocks. While talking to reporters, Senator Johnson stated that “automatic weapons are illegal,” and “to me, that [modifications that allow guns to function as automatic weapons] is part of that same process. So I have no problem banning those.” The National Rifle Association said in a statement that it “believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” By contrast, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) cautioned against moving too quickly to ban bump stocks, because “most people including myself didn’t know what a bump stock was, now we’re finding out about it and there are people who want to rush to judgment.”

Some Democratic senators urged Congress to take action. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), stated that “it is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are… It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.” Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), urged his colleagues “to be bold and fight to break the cycle of what can only be described as a callous disregard for the victims of gun violence. More talk and more prayers will not save lives. Only action and real changes in our federal and state laws can.” Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) sent out a number of tweets advocating for specific gun control measures, including expanded background checks, closing the gun show loophole, preventing domestic abusers from obtaining guns, banning assault rifles, removing gun manufactures’ immunity from civil liability, and funding the CDC to study gun violence as a “public health crisis.”

One day after the shooting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), stated on the Senate floor that “this is a moment for national mourning and for prayer.” During a press conference the following day, McConnell said, “I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions if there are any.” President Donald Trump told reporters that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on.”

The mass shooting in Las Vegas was the deadliest in modern United States history, occurring just over one year after the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, which had been the deadliest mass shooting in United States history until then. According to the Small Arms Survey, between 2010 and 2015, the United States had the 59th highest firearm homicide rate out of 195 countries with 2.70 murders per 100,000 people. Honduras had the highest recorded rate with 67.19 firearm homicides per 100,000 people.


Sources:

John Bowden, “Scalise: ‘Little Bit Early’ for Congress to Ban Bump Stocks,” thehill.com, Oct. 5, 2017

Ben Cardin, “Cardin Statement on Worst Mass Shooting in Modern US History,” cardin.senate.gov, Oct. 2, 2017

Jordain Carney, “McConnell: ‘Premature’ to Discuss Gun Control Legislation,” thehill.com, Oct. 3, 2017

Jordain Carney, “Dem Senator Pitches Ideas for Gun Control after Shooting,” thehill.com, Oct. 2, 2017

Dianne Feinstein, “Feinstein, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Close Automatic Weapon Loophole,” feinstein.senate.gov, Oct. 4, 2017

Ashley Killough, Ted Barrett, Lauren Fox, and Deidre Walsh, “Republicans Signal Some Openness to New Gun Legislation on ‘Bump Stocks,'” cnn.com, Oct. 5, 2017

Chris Murphy, “Murphy Statement on Las Vegas Shooting,” murphy.senate.gov, Oct. 2, 2017

National Rifle Association, “NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox Issue Joint Statement,” nra.org, Oct. 5, 2017

Amber Phillips, “After Las Vegas, Democrats Are Jumping Straight into the Gun Control Debate,” washingtonpost.com, Oct. 2, 2017

Kevin Uhrmacher and Denise Lu, “Here’s How Frustrated Democrats Have Responded to Las Vegas,” washingtonpost.com, Oct. 3, 2017