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White House 'Open' to Discussing Curbs on Rifle Accessory Vegas Gunman Used


Shooting instructor Frankie McRae illustrates the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a "bump stock" at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., Oct. 4, 2017. The stock uses the recoil of the semiautomatic rifle to let the finger "bump" the trigger, making it different from a fully automatic machine gun, a type that is illegal for most civilians to own.

The Trump White House, Republican lawmakers and America's most powerful gun rights organization are signaling willingness to discuss restricting a weapons accessory known as bump fire stocks.

It is a rare break from their generally strong opposition to any new gun controls.

Bump stocks, as they are commonly called, were little known until it was publicized this week that the gunman who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds in Las Vegas had the accessory on 12 of the weapons found in his hotel room.

"We're certainly open to having that conversation," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. "This is a president who is very committed to doing every single thing he can every single day to protect American lives," including what she referred to as "legislative fixes."

Asked about bump stocks as he began a meeting with U.S. military leaders on Thursday evening, President Donald Trump said, "We'll be looking at that over the next short period of time."

The National Rifle Association, which strongly opposes gun control proposals, now says it favors a review of the legality of bump stocks, which enable semiautomatic weapons to discharge bullets without the shooter having to pull the trigger each time, effectively making them as fast as machine guns.

FILE - A device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semiautomatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range, in South Jordan, Utah, Oct. 4, 2017. The device was used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock.
FILE - A device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semiautomatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range, in South Jordan, Utah, Oct. 4, 2017. The device was used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock.

"The National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law," it said in a statement. "The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations."

The NRA is a major contributor to political campaigns, especially those of Republican members of Congress, making its beneficiaries reluctant to break with the association's policies.

FILE - House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin answers questions during an interview at the Associated Press bureau in Washington, Sept. 13, 2017.
FILE - House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin answers questions during an interview at the Associated Press bureau in Washington, Sept. 13, 2017.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, now is also saying bump stocks should be examined.

"Clearly, that is something we need to look into," the Wisconsin Republican lawmaker said Thursday in a television interview.

A number of Republican senators, including the Judiciary Committee chairman, are expressing interest in convening hearings on the issue.

Republicans, and some Democrats, historically have resisted efforts to restrict gun ownership, which is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

More than two dozen Democrats in the Senate have joined Dianne Feinstein of California in backing new legislation to ban bump stocks, maintaining that the devices exploit a loophole in existing law. But passage of any such legislation would depend on the support of the majority Republicans.

FILE - Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., appears before reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 20, 2016.
FILE - Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., appears before reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 20, 2016.

In an interview with VOA's Persian service, Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the majority of Americans say automatic weapons should not be legal in this country.

"The only place that the argument is really happening is in Washington. So we are, you know, trying to build a political movement all around the country to force Congress to listen to the vast majority of the country that wants common-sense gun laws. That's a process, that might not, you know, happen in a year or two, but ultimately I don't think that 90 percent of the American public who want stronger gun laws can't be listened to," he said.

The ATF, the federal firearms bureau, approved the sale of bump stocks in 2010 after determining they did not violate federal law. In its approval letter, the ATF wrote "the 'bump stock' is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm."

A leader of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence called the willingness among the White House, the gun lobby and lawmakers of both parties to discuss banning bump stocks "at least a step" that was encouraging.

"It's great. I look forward to engaging in a bipartisan dialogue," Brady Co-president Avery Gardiner told VOA.

Gardiner said that with more than 90 percent of Americans supporting enhanced background checks for gun sales, those who resist stricter regulations on firearms face being "on the wrong side of history."

In the United States, "93 people die every day from gun violence, and we need solutions that address this problem comprehensively," Gardiner said.

The Brady campaign is named after James Brady, the White House press secretary who was permanently disabled after being shot in the head during the 1981 attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.

A woman writes a message on a sign at a makeshift memorial in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 5, 2017.
A woman writes a message on a sign at a makeshift memorial in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 5, 2017.

The decades-long debate about gun control in the United States has been revived by the Sunday night shooting in the largest city in Nevada, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Stephen Paddock had planned to escape his 32nd-floor room in the Mandalay Bay hotel, but he decided to leave a note and commit suicide as a SWAT team closed in, according to Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Authorities said they still were attempting to determine the killer's motive for the attack and whether he had any accomplices.

VOA's Wayne Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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