On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that some Republican politicians were considering supporting legislation that would outlaw “bump stocks,” the conversion kit that the Las Vegas shooter used to turn his semi-automatic rifle into a de facto automatic weapon. Senator John Cornyn told reporters, “I don’t understand the use of this bump stock. It seems like it’s an obvious area we ought to explore and see if it’s something Congress needs to act on.” He also called on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to hold a hearing on the issue. Representatives Carlos Curbelo and Mark Meadows also said they were open to supporting such a bill.
Getting rid of bump stocks is about as low a bar as you can set on gun control, but Congress probably won’t clear it. Keep in mind that major bipartisan gun control legislation has consistently failed over the last two decades, even as incidents of mass gun violence continue to get more gruesome. In 2013, after 20 children and six teachers were gunned down in Sandy Hook, Congress also sought to pass numerous bipartisan gun control bills, all of which eventually failed, despite overwhelming national outrage. Within four months, the NRA was able to rally and lobby conservatives in Congress to harden their opposition against the measures.
With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, it’s likely that the same theater will play out again. With a shaky 2018 midterm coming up for the GOP, and top donors threatening to cut off a party that they are finding ineffectual, it’s unlikely that Republican politicians will be willing to risk the wrath of the NRA or their constituents.