Washington • Most of Utah’s congressional members are open to banning so-called bump stocks like those used by the Las Vegas shooter to turn semi-automatic rifles into essentially machine guns.
Even the National Rifle Association said Thursday it wants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions to review whether bump stocks comply with existing federal law — a rare move for the nation’s largest and most powerful gun lobby.
Such a review could save the NRA’s congressional supporters from a public vote in the wake of the slaughter of 58 people and wounding of hundreds.
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” said the NRA, normally a fierce opponent of firearms regulation.
Bump stocks came under scrutiny after Stephen Paddock let loose a torrent of bullets from a Las Vegas hotel room into a country music crowd on Sunday night. Three of the dead were Utahns.
Paddock had 12 rifles outfitted with the devices, authorities said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that the Trump administration would “certainly welcome” a look at regulations covering bump stocks while Democrats urged swift action to bar their sale.
“Federal regulations won’t be able to fully close this loophole,” said Sen. Diane Feintstein, D-Calif. “As far as we know, the Las Vegas shooter passed background checks and legally purchased his weapons. That means merely regulating bump stocks wouldn’t have necessarily prevented the gunman from outfitting his weapons as he did.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, in an interview with MSNBC, said he is an avid hunter and didn’t even know what a bump stock was until this week.
“Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time, apparently this allows you to take a semi automatic and turns it into a fully automatic so clearly that‘s something that we need to look into,” Ryan told the network.
Rep. Mia Love, a Utah Republican who has received $3,000 in donations from the NRA and has one of its top ratings in Congress, said Thursday she wants to look at the bump-stock issue.
“I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment, and will not support any bill that takes the right to bear arms away from law-abiding citizens,” Love said. “However, any device that converts a legal firearm to an illegal firearm deserves closer scrutiny.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has taken more than $21,000 in NRA donations since 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, also said he was open to the conversation.
“I don’t know much about those [bump stocks] but I’m not against doing something about that,” Hatch told reporters. “I’m very concerned with what police found in that hotel room.”
Rep. Rob Bishop said he will look at legislation that is proposed. He was an NRA lobbyist in the Utah Capitol before being elected to Congress and has received nearly $22,000 in donations from the group.
“While committed to defending the rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment, Representative Bishop will continue to review any and all legislation regarding this firearm accessory,” spokesman Lee Lonsberry said.
Sen. Mike Lee’s office, though, said it was premature to jump into what legislative action should be taken so soon after the deady mass shooting.
“Senator Lee believes in waiting for the facts before making policy decisions,” said spokesman Conn Carroll. “We look forward to reading the official accounts of the FBI” and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Lee has taken $10,000 in NRA donations.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said he, too, wasn’t previously aware of bump stocks but “it is my view these devices deserve scrutiny.”
He said he’s asking the ATF why the devices were approved in 2010 and 2012 and believes the post-manufacturer modifications “circumvent” existing federal law.
“This type of modification to a gun should be controlled,” Stewart said.