A controversial bill to loosen restrictions on purchasing gun silencers won’t be reaching the House floor anytime soon after a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 59 dead and hundreds more wounded, according to GOP sources.
A bill to allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns with them to another state could also be affected after the tragedy, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
In what has become a familiar pattern, President Donald Trump and lawmakers in both parties issued somber statements of condolences following Sunday’s shooting, in which a heavily armed gunman opened fire on a crowd attending a country music festival. A number of Democrats called for immediate hearings and votes on gun-control measures, while Republicans and conservatives countered that it is inappropriate to talk politics when the tragedy is still fresh.
“Politicizing this terrible tragedy is, I think, beyond disgusting,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said on Monday afternoon.
“Unfortunately I think some of the statements that have been made are fairly predictable. A time [when] 50-plus people are dead and 500 people are wounded is not a time to be politicizing this. There’s plenty of time to talk after a respectful period,” he added.
There is virtually no chance that any new gun-control measures will be enacted in a GOP-controlled Congress or with Trump in the White House, the shooting could derail consideration of the silencer bill, known as the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, at least in the short term.
That bill, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), has been approved by the Natural Resources Committee and was expected to be on the House floor soon though it had not yet been scheduled for a vote. Consideration of the bill was postponed earlier this year after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot in June at a congressional baseball practice.
Rep. Richard Hudson’s (R-N.C.) proposal to allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns with them to across state lines also faces new political problems.
Cornyn wouldn’t respond to questions about the prospect of either bill being considered by the Senate, where they would almost certainly face a Democratic filibuster.
“What we ought to do is have a respectful period recognizing the loss of people who are killed and injured and then we can talk about policy later,” Cornyn said.
The Duncan legislation includes a provision revising federal regulations on silencers, which currently have tougher purchasing requirements than other guns.
A different provision in the Duncan bill makes it more difficult for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to classify certain ammunition as “armor piercing.” Regulations on interstate transportation weapons would be revised as well.
Neither Duncan nor House GOP leaders would comment on the outlook for the SHARE Act.
The NRA, which backs the bill, also did not comment.
Democrats said the attack in Las Vegas offers one more reason to discard the legislation, which they had tried to block in committee.
“The SHARE Act was supposed to be about making it easier to hunt wildlife. The gun provisions inserted in the bill at the direction of the NRA to deregulate silencers and armor-piercing ammunition make it easier to hunt people,” said Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, in a statement. “There’s a lot we need to do in the wake of this mass shooting. We don’t need to make it easier to get hold of items that could make mass casualty events even more deadly.”
Grijalva and Michigan Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) Monday asking him to pull the gun silencer bill from the House calendar indefinitely.
Separately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday urged Ryan to set up a select committee on gun violence, and other Democrats issued calls for expanded background checks on gun purchases. Neither of those actions will happen, said Republican aides.
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was gravely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, attended a news conference on Monday on Capitol Hill during which Democrats called for new restrictions on gun purchases. Giffords now heads Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun-control group.
“The nation is counting on you,” Giffords said as she turned and lifted her fist to the Capitol behind her.
Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, did the rest of the talking and mentioned several times the bills on silencers and concealed carry. Kelly said more must be done in Congress but stopping those two proposals was crucial.
“Incredibly, Congress is currently working on legislation that would weaken our gun laws,” Kelly said. “Imagine how much worse last night’s shooting could’ve been if the gunman had a silencer. Imagine the confusion for first responders if they arrived on the scene to a bunch of civilians wielding their own guns, attempting to return fire.”
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