Plans for gun control bills dim as GOP leaders want ATF action

Updated October 12, 2017 - 11:27 pm

WASHINGTON — A flurry of gun control legislation has been filed in Congress following the Strip shooting, but prospects for legislative action have dimmed as GOP leaders look to the Trump administration for an administrative remedy.

The most recent bill was filed Thursday, when Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., whose congressional district includes Newtown, unveiled legislation to limit high-capacity ammunition clips.

Titus told a Capitol Hill news conference that after the Oct. 1 shooting, “Nevadans want and deserve action to upend the status quo.”

She said Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, in charge of the shooting investigation, said there is no need for high-capacity magazines.

“Now is the time for Congress to hold hearings, debate measures and pass laws that will save lives and protect communities,” Titus said.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Nevada Democrats Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen.

Kihuen called it incomprehensible that Congress has failed to act after repeated mass shootings have occurred in towns across the nation.

He said the Las Vegas shooting “could have been prevented.”

The Esty bill is the third to be filed in the House since a gunman fired at the Route 91 Harvest festival crowd, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.

The shooting is largely different from the Dec. 14, 2012, tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where a 20-year-old man entered the building and shot six adults and 20 first-graders.

In both attacks, the shooters used semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity ammo clips.

A picture of the late President John F. Kennedy was the backdrop for the news conference on Capitol Hill, where Esty acknowledged the difficulty ahead in getting the legislation heard in committee, let alone passed in the House.

“If there were private voting on this, it would pass,” she predicted. But she told the news conference there were “no ‘Profiles in Courage’ in bringing this up.”

Since the Las Vegas shooting, lawmakers have filed legislation in the House and Senate to ban bump stocks and other devices that increase the rate of fire from semi-automatic weapons. The Las Vegas shooter had equipped several rifles with bump stocks.

A bipartisan bill, filed in the House by Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., would make it illegal to own or manufacture bump stock devices. In addition to Curbelo, nine other Republicans co-sponsored the legislation.

Kihuen and Rosen are Democratic co-sponsors.

Rosen urged fellow lawmakers to set aside partisan differences and address the public safety issue that adds Las Vegas to a long list of communities — Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino, Tucson and Orlando — that have had to muster the bravery to deal with tragedy.

“I implore my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find that same courage to come to the table and have real conversations about common sense solutions to address gun violence,” Rosen said in a speech from the House floor.

But Congress has not passed gun control legislation since the 1990s, when Democrats held control of the House and Senate.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said earlier this week that the best way to address the issue of bump stocks was not legislative action. Ryan said the “quickest fix” would be for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to administratively outlaw the devices.

The ATF ruled the devices legal in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

House and Senate Republicans, along with the National Rifle Association, the largest group in the nation’s gun rights lobby, have urged an administrative review of the law by the ATF.

Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, both Nevada Republicans, also want a review.

The ATF has not responded to those requests yet.

In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he would entertain a hearing on a bill filed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to ban bump stocks and other devices because of GOP support for the bill. That legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

Without Republican support, gun control measures would be stopped in the GOP-controlled House and Senate.

Feinstein introduced a bill following the Newtown school tragedy. Republicans then said the bill would have reinstated the federal assault weapons ban of the 1990s. It failed in the Senate by a large margin.

The Las Vegas shooting prompted her to file legislation again. She said the bill would close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be converted to nearly full automatic weapons, which have been illegal for 30 years.

“The only reason to fire so many rounds so fast is to kill large numbers of people,” she said. “No one should be able to easily and cheaply modify legal weapons into what are essentially machine guns.”

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

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