NRA may be open to some changes

Gun-rights group re­sponds to con­gres­sional ef­forts to re­strict de­vices mak­ing guns au­to­matic

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike De­Bo­nis, Elise Viebeck and Ed O’Keefe

The Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has joined an ef­fort to re­strict a de­vice that was used to ac­cel­er­ate gun­fire in the Las Ve­gas mas­sacre, af­ter the White House and top Repub­li­cans sig­naled a will­ing­ness to de­bate the is­sue in re­sponse to the tragedy.

“In Las Ve­gas, re­ports in­di­cate that cer­tain de­vices were used to mod­ify the firearms in­volved.… The NRA be­lieves that de­vices de­signed to al­low semi­au­to­matic ri­fles to func­tion like fully-au­to­matic ri­fles should be sub­ject to ad­di­tional reg­u­la­tions,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by NRA ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the NRA In­sti­tute for Leg-

isla­tive Ac­tion.

The state­ment from the NRA — its first since Sun­day’s shoot­ing — was ex­pected to gal­va­nize the ef­fort to fur­ther reg­u­late so­called bump stocks.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Baekrs­field, and House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Good­latte, R-Va., said Thurs­day that law­mak­ers will con­sider fur­ther rules for the de­vices, which al­low le­gal semi­au­to­matic ri­fles to fire as rapidly as more heav­ily re­stricted au­to­matic weapons.

“Clearly that’s some­thing we need to look into,” Ryan said on MSNBC. He said he did not know what bump stocks were be­fore Sun­day’s shoot­ing, which left at least 58 dead and hundreds in­jured.

“This is def­i­nitely an area where we’re go­ing to look and be able to act on,” McCarthy said on Fox News.

“We’re go­ing to look at the is­sue,” Good­latte told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

On Thurs­day af­ter­noon White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was open to di­a­logue. “We think that we should have that con­ver- sa­tion. And we want to be part of it mov­ing for­ward,” San­ders said dur­ing the White House press brief­ing.

Ryan, McCarthy and Good­latte are among a widen­ing group of Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who have said they are open to de­bat­ing fur­ther re­stric­tions on bump stocks. The grow­ing will­ing­ness to ad­dress the is­sue within the GOP stands in con­trast to the party’s usual op­po­si­tion to mea­sures to re­strict firearm use and ac­cess, and it could help law­mak­ers com­bat the per­cep­tion that Congress has done noth­ing to ad­dress mass shoot­ings.

It does not hurt that these par­tic­u­lar re­stric­tions might not gar­ner as much re­sis­tance from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion as other gun- con­trol pro­pos­als. The group ex­erts con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence on the GOP’s ap­proach to gun pol­icy, and many Repub­li­cans fear that op­pos­ing it could lead the group to re­tal­i­ate in fu­ture pri­mary elec­tions.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., so far, has not in­di­cated that he is on board.

He told re­porters Tues­day that it is “com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate to politi­cize an event like this” and de­clined to an­swer fur­ther ques­tions on the sub­ject.

Asked Thurs­day about McCon­nell’s po­si­tion, a spokesman re­ferred to the leader’s com­ments ear­lier in the week.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who re­turned to Congress last week af­ter sur­viv­ing a shoot­ing in Alexan­dria in July — echoed McCon­nell in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day.

“I think it’s a shame that the day some­body hears about a shoot­ing, the first thing they think about is how can I go pro­mote my gun- con­trol agenda, as op­posed to say­ing, how do I go pray and help the families that are suf­fer­ing?” he said.

In Congress, sup­port for a bump-stock ban is start­ing to co­a­lesce around sev­eral bills.

One, un­veiled Wed­nes­day by Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, D- Calif., would ban the sale, trans­fer and man­u­fac­ture of bump stocks, trig­ger cranks and other ac­ces­sories that can ac­cel­er­ate a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle’s rate of fire.

Fe­in­stein’s bill had sup­port from 38 Democrats as of Thurs­day morn­ing, in­clud­ing Sens. Bill Nel­son of Florida and Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri, who both face up­hill fights for re­elec­tion next year.

“The no­tion that we’re al­low­ing an add- on that al­lows peo­ple to con­vert a semi­au­to­matic weapon to an au­to­matic weapon — we’ve got to ad­dress that,” McCaskill said.

Democrats’ own elec­toral map might com­pli­cate the de­bate.

Ten Demo­cratic se­na­tors, in­clud­ing McCaskill, face re- elec­tion bids in mostly ru­ral states that Trump eas­ily won in the 2016 elec­tion.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, DN.D., said in a state­ment that she did not know much about bump stocks, “and I first want to learn more about them.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said that Fe­in­stein’s idea “sounds sen­si­ble and reasonable to me” but that he would con­sult hunters in his state be­fore tak­ing a po­si­tion.

A spokes­woman for Sen. Joe Don­nelly, D-Ind., did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

In the House, a bill from Rep. Car­los Curbelo, R-Fla., would fo­cus on bump stocks and leave out re­stric­tions on other gun ac­ces­sories.

Curbelo said he had been “flooded” with re­quests from Repub­li­cans who want to sign on to the mea­sure, which he planned to in­tro­duce by the end of the day on Thurs­day.

“I think we are on the urge of break­through where when it comes to sen­si­ble gun pol­icy,” said Curbelo, a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents a Mi­ami- area district. “It’s ob­vi­ous that this is a fla­grant cir­cum­ven­tion of the law, and no mem­ber of Congress should sup­port any cir­cum­ven­tion of ex­ist­ing law.”

In a sign of the far-reach­ing in­ter­est in the is­sue, even Sen. James In­hofe, ROkla., an ar­dent con­ser­va­tive, sug­gested he’s open to sup­port­ing the bill. “Not yet,” he said. “I think I prob­a­bly will even­tu­ally.”

Some law­mak­ers are pur­su­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to ban­ning bump stocks that could pre- empt leg­is­la­tion.

Two House Repub­li­cans with mil­i­tary back­grounds, Reps. Mike Gal­lagher of Wis­con­sin and Adam Kinzinger of Illi­nois, were gath­er­ing sig­na­tures Thurs­day for a bi­par­ti­san let­ter ask­ing the Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives to re­visit its 2010 ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ter­mi­na­tion that bump stocks are le­gal.

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