Top congressional Republicans, who long have resisted legislative limits on guns, have signaled that they would be open to banning the firearm accessory that the Las Vegas gunman used to transform his rifles to mimic automatic weapon fire, the New York Times reports. For a generation, Republicans, often joined by conservative Democrats, have bottled up gun legislation. A decade ago, they blocked efforts to limit the size of magazines after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Five years later, Republican leaders thwarted bipartisan legislation to expand background checks of gun purchasers after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Ct. Last year, after the Orlando nightclub massacre, they blocked legislation to stop gun sales to buyers on terrorism watch lists.
In this week’s Las Vegas massacre, legislators in both parties may have found part of the weapons trade that few could support: gun conversion kits called “bump stocks” that turn semiautomatic weapons into firearms capable of firing in long, deadly bursts. “I own a lot of guns, and as a hunter and sportsman, I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican. Cornyn said the legality of the conversion kits was “a legitimate question” and has asked Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman, to convene a hearing on that issue and any others that arise out of the Las Vegas investigation. Other Republicans, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, said they would be open to legislation on bump stocks. The National Rifle Association, which has poured tens of millions of dollars into Republican campaign coffers, remained mum and could stop a ban cold.