85°F
weather icon Clear

After Las Vegas shooting, Congress debates gun control again

WASHINGTON — A debate over bump stocks — devices that allowed semi-automatic rifles to fire at rapid speed during the Las Vegas shooting — will continue this week on Capitol Hill as lawmakers grapple with the politically stinging issue of gun control.

The week began Monday with a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy at an annual conference here for progressive state legislators from across the country.

That moment of silence at the Omni Shoreham Hotel was led by members of the Nevada Legislature, in town for the 4th annual State Innovation Exchange Legislator Conference.

“It’s hard to talk about with this knot in my stomach,” said state Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, who said the Nevada legislative delegation was brought onto the stage to lead the prayer for victims of tragedy.

Lawmakers from other states expressed their support for the Nevada delegation, “letting us know they were with us,” said Nevada Assemblyman William McCurdy II, D-Las Vegas.

“We decided to go up in unison and call for a moment of silence,” said McCurdy, adding, “We are stronger when we all stand together.”

As state lawmakers met, Congress was out for a federal holiday. The House returns this week.

Focus on bump stocks

The debate in Congress on gun control has focused mainly on bump stocks, which were used by the shooter, Stephen Paddock. He equipped some semi-automatic rifles with the devices before opening fire from his room at Mandalay Bay into a crowd attending a country music concert on Oct. 1.

There were 58 people killed and hundreds of others injured.

The bump stock accessory allows semi-automatic rifles to fire bursts of bullets near the speed of a fully automatic weapon.

Although the National Rifle Association has called for tighter controls on bump stocks, the gun lobby and Republican leaders are urging President Donald Trump to issue regulations through the Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The NRA opposes an outright ban on the devices.

Democrats want a ban on bump stocks through legislation that would do just that. A bill filed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is co-sponsored by many Democrats in the Senate, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, said she plans to be “very vocal” in Washington about gun safety legislation to make sure “the terror that came to our community never visits another one in America.”

The Feinstein bill would ban not only bump stocks, but other accessories to increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic weapons.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he plans to call a hearing on the gun control measures after several Republicans said they were open to legislative language to curb availability of the accessories.

Political consequences

But a vote on gun control legislation could have political consequences for vulnerable Republicans and Democrats up for reelection in 2018.

A bill to ban assault weapons in 1993 resulted in an NRA-orchestrated attack on Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and other moderate Democrats, who lost reelection and saw a Republican takeover of the House.

The NRA funded unknown candidate Steve Stockman, who defeated Brooks. The gun lobby also funded an effort to defeat Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash.

In Nevada, a divide over gun control in the congressional delegation falls along party lines, with the two Republicans, Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, favoring Trump administration action on regulations on bump stocks.

Cortez Masto and Democrat Reps. Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen favor legislation.

Heller joined other GOP senators last week in urging the administration to review and tighten regulations on bump stocks — a position that Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, underscored in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

LaPierre said it is up to ATF to review and interpret current laws and regulations.

Feinstein, on another Sunday show, “Face the Nation,” argued against administrative actions that can be changed from president to president. “We need a law,” she said.

History shows any gun control legislation would face hurdles in the Senate, where lawmakers rejected bills to tighten background check requirements in 2015 following the San Bernardino, California, mass shooting, and in 2013 following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Last year, groups and organizations on both sides of the issue spent money to lobby Congress.

Gun rights groups spent $10.6 million, and gun control organizations spent $1.7 million, on lobbyists alone. More was doled out in contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks money in politics.

Spearman, the Nevada state senator, said she has heard from Democrats and Republicans alike that something needs to be done, and that “throwing money” into the gun control debate “is not a winning strategy.”

She said people are looking for solutions.

“People are fed up,” Spearman said.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
THE LATEST
Democratic presidential candidates fire on Trump, Biden

The debate is shaped by evolving issues of race, gender, generation and ideology that again exploded into public view on the debate stage Thursday night.