The Las Vegas shooting that killed at least 58 people came the same week the House is set to pass a bill allowing easier access to gun silencers — which would make it harder for law enforcement to track down active shooters.
That pending bill, and the unprecedented death toll from the Sunday attack, set off the latest wave of lawmakers calling for swift action to finally curb America’s plague of fatal shootings.
“It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), who has been pushing for stronger gun control since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in his state five years ago, said in a statement.
“This must stop,” he said.
“It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Congress had “a moral duty” to pass new gun control laws in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. She called on Congress to take the first steps by passing the King-Thompson legislation, a bill introduced in 2015 that called for background checks on all commercial firearm sales, including gun show purchases.
But another bill stole the headlines on Monday: The Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, which the House was set to rubber stamp this week.
The act includes a provision that would reduce the restrictions on purchasing gun silencers, which can muffle the blasts of even many high-powered weapons.
Under current law, customers must wait months to purchase silencers, and submit their fingerprints and a photograph of themselves as part of the process. They also have to pay a $200 transfer tax. Federal law enforcement keeps a record of people who make these purchases.
The SHARE Act provision would do away with all of those requirements and even refund the $200 tax to anyone who bought a silencer since October 2015.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) added the provision and said silencers were important for hunters and target shooters to prevent hearing loss.
Mass shooting at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas
Ironically, an initial hearing about the bill in June was postponed after a gunman ambushed a Republican baseball practice, injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three others. Scalise was hospitalized until late July and returned to work last week.
The NRA has been a dogged advocate of the SHARE Act, and Donald Trump Jr. is working with gun lobbyists to help pass it. Trump Jr. said he hoped silencers would help get “little kids into the game.”
Democrats started a new round of opposition to the bill within hours of the Las Vegas attack.
“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get,” former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted.
It was not immediately clear if Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock owned any silencers, or what effect a silencer may have had on his assault gun rampage.
Videos from the shooting captured the blasts from hundreds of rounds raining down on concertgoers in mere seconds. Thousands of patrons are seen running through the concert grounds for safety, unable to figure out where the hail of bullets is coming from.
The White House initiated no discussion about gun control in the day after the massacre.
President Trump, who has used previous mass shootings to promote policies such as his travel ban, made no mention of gun violence or assault weapons during his first remarks Monday morning.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the commander-in-chief wouldn’t be discussing policy any time soon.
“I think that’s something we can talk about in the coming days and see what that looks like moving forward,” she told reporters.
Trump vowed as a candidate to prevent any serious restrictions on gun laws, and the NRA donated more than $30 million to his campaign.
In April, he became the second President ever to speak at the NRA’s national convention. He told the crowd there, “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”