The National Rifle Association (NRA) broke its silence on Thursday, Oct. 5th over the Las Vegas shooting that killed at least 59 and injured hundreds. In a statement on the organization's website, CEO Wayne LaPierre and chief lobbyist Chris Cox said the NRA supports regulations on bump stocks. If news about the organization's position made some wonder does the NRA support gun control, the statement also underscored that banning guns themselves "will do nothing to prevent future attacks."
"The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," LaPierre and Cox said in the announcement.
The NRA's call for additional regulations came hours after top Republicans suggested that they would consider regulating the devices. Bump stocks make semiautomatic rifles fire rounds at a pace as fast as automatic weapons, which are subject to greater regulations. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in an interview with MSNBC that he did not know about the devices before the Oct. 1 attack. "Clearly that’s something we need to look into,” Ryan said. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) too told the Washington Post that “We’re going to look at the issue.”
At Thursday's press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say if the president supports regulating bump stocks. "We’re open to having that conversation. We think that we should have that conversation. And we want to be part of it moving forward," Sanders said.
While a small group of Republican legislators are open to reviewing restrictions on bump stocks, a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Oct. 4 had the support of 38 Democrats and no Republicans, according to the Washington Post. The bill would ban the manufacture and sale of bump stocks, along with similar devices.
A day later, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said they would reintroduce the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would strip the gun industry of protections against being held liable when their products harm individuals. In 2016, due to these protections, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre against the maker of the AR-15 used in the attack.
Congress has yet to pass gun control measures in response to recent mass killings, from the Sandy Hook attack in 2012 that killed 20 children and six school staff members, to the Pulse night club attack in 2016 that killed 49 people, and the Aurora theater attack that killed 12 individuals. In response to Sandy Hook, in fact, LaPierre suggested that the teachers who died in the attack should have been armed. And, after the Pulse massacre, Cox blamed the Obama administration's "political correctness" for failing to prevent the attack.
The NRA's statement supporting increased regulations on bump stocks may seem like an unusual move for the organization — at least in the past sixty years. In the first half of the 20th century, the NRA worked with presidents and lawmakers to pass gun control legislation, in the wake of Prohibition-era crime, according to the book The Battle Over The Right to Bear Arms in America by Adam Winkler.
But, those hopeful that the organization is changing its tune need not look further than Thursday's statement for clarity. LaPierre and Cox noted in the announcement that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump stocks. "Banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks," the pair wrote.
In response to the NRA's statement, Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, condemned the NRA's "dangerous agenda."
"Now is the time for Congress to reject the radical agenda of NRA leaders and separate themselves from a greedy gun lobby that puts profit over people at every turn," she said in a statement.
Though most Americans support more gun restrictions, Republicans in Congress may not have the political will to do so, thanks to the millions of dollars the NRA donates to their campaigns. In the statement, the NRA even urged Congress to loosen gun restrictions and pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which would require states to recognize concealed carry permits from other states.
And many aren't having it. “Today after four days of silence, the NRA exploited a mass shooting that killed 58 people and injured hundreds to push their dangerous agenda to weaken our gun laws - American lives be damned," Watts said in her response.