What’s this? Praise for congressional Republicans who say they’re now willing to consider a gun curb? Don’t take it seriously. What Republicans are really doing, after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, is preparing to make lethal weapons more accessible.
After the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre, where a gunman killed 58 concertgoers and injured hundreds more, Republicans signaled a willingness to examine a proposal to ban the bump stock, the device that enabled the Nevada killer to shoot his semi-automatic rifles almost as fast a fully automatic one.
Ignore that red herring. Keep a closer eye on a measure backed by the National Rifle Association and conservatives, already passed by a House committee, that Speaker Paul Ryan pulled from a floor vote only after the massacre. Proponents say they’re just waiting for the heat to subside before taking it up again.
“They are waiting until the cameras are off in Las Vegas,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The bill would facilitate the use of silencers on guns, force every state to honor concealed-carry rights granted elsewhere and weaken regulation of certain armor-piercing ammunition.
It’s a sick travesty that attests to the undiminished clout of the gun lobby.
When Democrats are in control, the NRA flourishes by telling gun owners that the government wants to take away their weapons. Modest controls, such as requiring background checks before gun purchases, are called a slippery slope to confiscation.
But when Republicans are in control, as they are now, the gun lobby needs specific victories to keep momentum and money flowing. That’s the motivation behind the misnamed Sportsman’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act passed 22 to 13 by a House panel last month.
The legislation would remove hurdles and fees to obtain silencers, gutting provisions enacted in the 1930s.
The rationales are laughable. “My hearing has been damaged because of gun noise,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan.
Lest you think the greater beneficiaries would be armed street thugs seeking to elude detection, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho has an answer: Silencers, he says, don’t completely silence a gunshot.
The concealed-carry measure in the bill would allow gun-holders from states that allow concealed guns to carry them in states that prohibit it. Thus a Texan carrying concealed heat couldn’t be challenged while walking through the New York subways or the state’s college campuses.
That contradicts the supposed Republican allegiance to federalism and their claim that state and local governments know better than Washington what’s best for their citizens.
The bill, likely to pass the House though perhaps not the Senate, has been sidetracked twice. A hearing was postponed in June after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others were shot during a baseball practice, then floor consideration was delayed after Las Vegas. If these incidents would just subside for awhile, Republicans could pass legislation making them even more likely in the future.
Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist.