Just when it seemed that even the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history could not shake the immovable stalemate over gun rights in Congress, a strange thing happened: Republicans started talking about tightening regulations on firearms.
In the days since a gunman identified as Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and injured hundreds more at a Las Vegas outdoor concert, a surprising number of GOP lawmakers have voiced support for taking action against the device known as a bump stock, which allowed Paddock to fire off bullets from his semiautomatic at a much faster—and therefore more lethal— clip.
Some, like Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, have called for legislation banning bump stocks altogether, while more senior Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader John Cornyn have said Congress should investigate their legality but proceed more cautiously. The most significant statement, however, came on Thursday afternoon from the leaders of the National Rifle Association, who said that “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
Taken together, the flurry of interest in bump stocks has raised the possibility that the Las Vegas massacre might spur congressional action where previous atrocities of gun violence, from the 2012 killing of 27 schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School to the 2015 slaughter of nine worshippers inside a Charleston church, have not.