Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:46 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:46 PM
By: Jessica Wehrman, Jack Torry - Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Even as Republicans oppose broad new restrictions on guns, Gov. John Kasich and other key GOP lawmakers in Ohio appear willing to embrace changes designed to prevent people from modifying semi-automatic weapons so that they have more lethal, rapid-fire capabilities.
Republicans have resisted calls for major changes in gun laws following previous mass shootings. But in a sign that last Sunday’s Las Vegas shootings have prompted a shift, the National Rifle Association said Thursday there should be “additional regulation” on a device known as a “bump stock.”
The device, which was used by the killer in Las Vegas when he murdered 59 people and injured hundreds of others, can cheaply and legally make a semi-automatic weapon more deadly, allowing it to fire as many as 800 bullets in a minute.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner of Dayton, and Columbus area Reps. Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington and Pat Tiberi of Genoa Twp. were among the Republicans who say they want to review possible bump-stock restrictions.
Blaming a 2010 Obama administration letter that allowed such devices to be legal, Turner called on Congress to review whether the modification “is still appropriate” while Stivers said the issue “should be re–examined.”
Turner, Tiberi and Stivers, meanwhile, signed a letter calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to “re–evaluate bump stocks and other similar mechanism to ensure full compliance with federal law.” Later Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan also called for a review of such devices.
Federal law prohibits private ownership of automatic weapons built after 1986. But the bump stock has been used to essentially circumvent that ban.
On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D–Calif., introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, a measure swiftly endorsed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. A spokeswoman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has been a longtime supporter of gun rights, said “we will do our due diligence on this legislation and review.”
On the CBS Morning News Wednesday, Kasich went even further, saying, “of course” he supports outlawing bump devices.
It was a marked shift by Kasich, who as governor has signed bills backed by the National Rifle Association, including allowing people to carry concealed guns on college campuses and day-care centers and allowing hunters to use noise suppressors while hunting certain birds.
On the broader issue of whether Americans should have relatively easy access to high-capacity semi–automatic weapons, Republicans have shown little interest in Democratic sponsored measures to require universal background checks before purchasing them.
“We must outlaw tools like bump stocks that make firearms even more lethal,” said Andrew Patrick, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington. “But that’s not enough. Bump stocks do not typically contribute much to the 36,000 American gun deaths we see every year.”
The debate over bump stocks, however, was a change from what, for the most part, has been a common refrain in the gun control debate: From the right, that such tragedies should not be politicized, and from the left, that something had to be done.
“While the events that occurred in Las Vegas are an enormous tragedy, and my heart and prayers are with those who are still grieving, I do not believe this is the time for politics,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, R–Troy. “I still believe the Second Amendment is an important part of the Constitution.”
Rep. Jim Renacci, R–Wadsworth, who is seeking next year’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, said, “While I know the media is anxious to start and politicize the gun control debate, I believe we must allow the FBI and local police to continue their investigation and establish the facts at this point.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, gave a similar statement: “The Second Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, and so when the time comes to address what happened, anything we do to try and stop similar horrific and astonishing acts of evil like this must be consistent with the Constitution,” he said.
By contrast, Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus area Democrat, called for “immediate action,” saying “prayers are needed — and certainly help — but those alone will not solve this problem.”
Brown said he was “incredulous that no matter what happens … that my colleagues are doing the bidding of the gun lobby. It’s clear we can do common sense things here to protect the American public better.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, said, “We cannot accept the notion that living in America means living with mass shootings as a common occurrence,” adding that he believes Congress can approve some gun restrictions without denting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
Richard Martinez, whose son was killed in 2014 when a shooter open fired on the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara, said this week he’s frustrated by some of the comments he’s heard since the Las Vegas killings.
“I hear this stuff about we shouldn’t be talking about politics today, but you know, after 9/11, Congress, they didn’t say, ‘Let’s wait until we calm down to do something,’’’ Martinez said. Referring to the murder last year of 49 people in a Florida night club, he added: “It’s been at least a year since the Pulse shootings. What is Congress doing?”