by: Jamie Dupree Updated:
In a change from the normal debate lines on gun legislation in the Congress, some Republican lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday said they were open to the idea of banning “bump stocks,” a legal device reportedly used by the Las Vegas shooter to help convert a semi-automatic weapon into more of automatic firearm, allowing more rapid fire.
“I have no problem in banning those,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said of ‘bump stocks,” telling reporters that the device falls under the category of existing gun laws.
“We already have automatic weapons that are illegal, to me that’s part of the same process,” Johnson added as he left the Senate floor.
“I think they should be banned,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), as his home state colleague, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), said he was open to hearings on the idea.
“It’s illegal to convert a semi-automatic weapon to an automatic weapon,” said Cornyn, “but apparently these bump stocks are not.”
While Cornyn stopped short of endorsing a ban on bump stocks, the question of whether they are a way to get around the current ban on automatic weapons was of interest to other Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“If this is a loophole that gets around that intent, then I would want to look at that,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) sent a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, asking them to declare bump stocks illegal, saying, “these fully-automatic simulator devices have no place in civil society.”
The fact that some Republicans would consider doing something about ‘bump stocks’ was unusual, as GOP lawmakers have routinely kept a lid on most gun restrictions offered up by Democrats in the wake of mass shootings, no matter how limited.
Earlier in the day, a group of Democratic Senators unveiled a bill that would ban the bump stocks, as Democrats made the case that some type of legislative action is needed in the wake of Vegas attack.
“The only reason to modify a gun (with a bump stock) is to kill as many people as possible, in as short a time as possible,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
“Bump stocks essentially circumvent strict and accepted laws against automatic weapons,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “What excuse can there be for their continued sale?”
“I’m a hunter and have owned guns my whole life,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “But these automatic weapons are not for hunting, they are for killing.”
While the “bump stocks” issue may be new to many, Feinstein had a bill back in 2013 that would have done away with them; that measure – like most plans from Democrats on gun controls in the last 20 years – did not get through the Senate.
The openness of a few GOP lawmakers for banning bump stocks certainly doesn’t mean it will pass through the Congress – but the comments of a few Republicans was a notable change from the usual political norms in the gun debate on Capitol Hill.