Like many members of Congress and the American public, Rep. George Holding hadn’t heard of “bump-fire stocks” until after the deadly shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
But Holding, a Raleigh Republican whose district includes parts of Wake and Johnston counties, is joining a growing chorus in Congress in calling for looking at banning them after the carnage in Las Vegas. Even the powerful National Rifle Association gave its blessing to additional regulations on “bump stocks” on Thursday.
Fifty-eight people were killed and more than 500 injured after a gunman opened fire on 22,000 concert-goers at an open-air event from the 32nd floor of a hotel room. The shooter reportedly modified semi-automatic weapons with “bump stocks,” attachments that allow guns to fire faster and act more like automatic weapons.
“This is a way to circumvent the law, existing law, by sloppily converting a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon. I think we ought to look at getting rid of those,” Holding said Thursday. “You’re purposely trying to circumvent the law.”
Fully automatic weapons manufactured after 1986 are banned in the United States. “Bump stocks” are not illegal and can be purchased for less than $200.
“Bump-fire stocks, while simulating automatic fire, do not actually alter the firearm to fire automatically, making them legal under current federal law,” Jill Snyder, a special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said at a news conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
Republicans in Congress, normally loath to take on gun control measures, are at least willing to consider a ban on “bump stocks.” Sen. Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat, introduced a narrow measure Wednesday to ban sales of the attachments.
“If somebody, just like any other avenue, is circumventing that law, then I think it’s something we should take a look at it. My first impulse is that could be a problem,” said Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, who is chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
“At the same time, we don’t want to get to a place where any law we pass out of this House ... targets more the law-abiding citizen then the criminal. We want to make sure that we’re protecting our society.”
In a statement, the NRA said “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” The NRA has spent almost $7 million on behalf of Sen. Richard Burr and $4.5 million on behalf of Sen. Thom Tillis. The group has also donated to nearly every Republican member of the congressional delegation.
Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican who represents western North Carolina, said he knows more about weapons than many of his colleagues and had to call his son for additional information on “bump stocks.” He said he’d never heard of them before the shooting in Las Vegas. Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was drafting a letter to the firearms bureau for more information on the devices.
Meadows said ATF may be able to change a rule or regulation that could solve the problem. The federal government allowed the sale of “bump stocks” in 2010.
“What enforcement capabilities are already in statute as it would relate to this? Is there a need for additional legislation?” he said.
Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican who represents much of eastern North Carolina, said he hasn’t had much time to study the “bump stock” issue. He planned to look into it this weekend.
“I have a very great concern about all the shootings and the killings of the American people,” Jones said. “I am concerned, deeply concerned, but I don’t know what the next step should be.”
Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said he is co-sponsoring legislation in the House to prohibit “bump stocks” and is supporting other bills to enhance background checks and ban assault-style weapons.
“As the Las Vegas tragedy made abundantly clear, bump stocks turn already dangerous semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic killing machines. Our nation’s leaders must find the moral courage to take action and protect the public,” Price said in a statement.
Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC