Congress tackles gun control after Las Vegas Massacre

Lawmakers in Florida and California introduced bipartisan gun legislation

Credit: La'shawn Donelson The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
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People yelled and ran for cover as gunshots sprung into the crowd during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The gunman, 61-year old, Stephen Paddock, fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room into a crowd of concertgoers, leaving 59 people dead and more than 500 people injured.

This mass shooting sparked a national debate on Capitol Hill about gun laws in the U.S. with attention being focused on the usage of bump stocks used as semi- automatic weapons and gun silencers.

In the Las Vegas shooting, police officials suspect that the gunman, Stephen Paddock, may have manipulated his gun with the usage of bump stocks.

What are Bump Stocks?

Bump stocks, commonly known as slide fires, are use to fire ammunition rapidly simulating the automatic fire. Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced bi-partisan legislation , banning the “manufacturing, possession or transfer” of bump stocks that increase a weapon’s ability to fire rapidly.

According to police officials, twelve bump stocks were found in the Paddock’s Mandalay Bay hotel room.

(Credit: Creative Commons) A bump fire stock, pictured above, recoils against the shooter’s shoulder when the trigger is pulled.

The difference between semi-automatic, automatic and bump fire stock 

  • Automatic: When the trigger is pulled, the weapon will fire until the ammunition is depleted or when the trigger is released.
  • Semi- automatic: When the trigger is pulled and consistently held, the weapon will resume firing ammunition until it is depleted or the trigger is released.
  • Bump-fire stocks: Attached to the firearm. The stock uses the recoil to bounce off the shoulder and bumps into the trigger finger, firing the weapon multiple times.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has strongly opposed the bill, suggesting that the bill is banning common firearm accessories.thers have called for the bill,  a need to protect the American people.

Others have expressed that the bill is needed to protect the American people.

Gun Silencers on the House floor

The Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, moved to the House floor. The act seeks looser restrictions on gun silencers.

The bill would allow sportsmen and women to purchase a gun silencer for “hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting” to help with hearing loss.

(Credit: Creative Commons) A 9mm SR1MP pistol with a silencer.

Currently, consumers have to pay a $200 transfer tax fee, provide fingerprints and a photo, and pass a federal background check to purchase a silencer for their rifles. The process takes up to nine months for approval.

However, several policy experts and lawmakers criticized the bill.

“I am hoping people learn how things are added to a weapon is dangerous. It can increase the danger of a weapon. It can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands,”said Robert Disney, Vice President of Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “If this bill comes up for a vote, the make-up of Congress is problematic. The corporate gun lobbyists have done a good job to encourage votes they would like for them to be in Congress.”

Disney said that gun lobbyists have pushed their agenda.

“There is no one piece of legislation that will fix everything.”

“They have shut down the government’s willingness to do research on gun violence, hogtied the ATF and the ability to properly marketplace, removed regulations and opposed regulations that could reduce the 33,000 Americans that are killed every year by a gun,” Disney said, “there is no one piece of legislation that will fix everything.”

Brady Campaign solutions for gun controls 

  • Background checks
  • Ensuring the gun stores are the appropriate community gatekeepers
  • Gun owners should properly store their guns so that kids and people in crisis can’t get ahold of them

“The majority of the ideas people think should happen will not happen because of the gun industry, threats, and wanting to sell as many as guns as the gun companies can,” said Disney.

“Gun company and lobbyist push legislation through and now this is where we are.”

Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence also agrees that silencers are dangerous to the American people.

“Most of the versions of this bill would make regulations like everyday guns are regulated now,” said Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Too often gun right now are placed in the wrong hands. We do not want that case to be the same as well as silencers.”

“It is a common fact that shooters wear ear plugs or ear muffins and more effective for those purpose than it is for silencers to protect people hearing. It is inaccurate,” Nichols said.

Nichols said she doesn’t think the bill will pass.

“We hope that they don’t spend congressional time and tax payers money on this ridiculous issue,” said Nichols.

In order for the bill to pass, it will need to go through the Senate and receive 60 votes. The future of the bill is unknown and would likely face criticism from Democrats and Republicans.

History of Suppressors

Silencers, commonly known as suppressors, are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). A silencer reduces the noise of the bullet exiting the barrel and muzzles the flash when the firearm is fired.

A “silencer” does not “silence” the firearm, it reduces the sound of the gunshot to a safe hearing level where the shooter does not need additional hearing protection.

For legal private ownership, silencers are available in 42 states and legal for hunting in 40 states. The exceptions are Hawaii, Calif. (CA), Ill. (IL), N.Y (NY), N.J (NJ), Del. (DE), R.I. (RI) and Mass. (MA).

The first patented silencer, inventor MaHiram Percy Maxim, used his invention to prevent the hearing loss, noise pollution and to better the hunting experience for shooters in 1909.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt was a fan of the Maxim Silencers and used one on his Winchester 1894 Carbine.

Today, the company Maxim Silencers, creates noise reducers for oil, gas and power generation industries.

Congress’ previous steps on silencers 

Earlier this year, the House introduced the Hearing Protection Act.

This legislation allows purchasing a silencer as easy as buying a firearm. The requirements for purchasing a firearm include the following,

  •  U.S. citizen
  • Permanent resident
  • Those individuals temporary seeking entry into the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes.

This bill would include the pre-existing federal laws, with the exception of providing an instant background check and no longer having the tax stamps and federal regulations.

However, several gun advocacy groups and lawmakers have criticized the usage of the silencers.

Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York tweeted her concerns that silencers will be ineffective to police officers when determining a suspect.

The Americans for Responsible Solutions recommends a suggestion, rather continuing usage of silencers.

Second Amendment Rights and lawmakers 

In the U.S. Constitution, Second Amendment grants people the right to keep and bear arms.

Policy expert and Georgetown University professor, Robert Cottrol agrees that people need to have the ability to defend themselves against harm, as history has shown in the Jim Crow era.

Although many non-gun owners, gun owners, and policymakers are divided when it comes to legislation regarding gun control.

There have been several proposed bills throughout 2008 but many fail to gain votes to support the bill while others do not reach the House floor.

Wide differences between Republican gun owners, non-gun owners on several policies
Credit: Pew Research displaying the difference between Republican gun owners and owners on several policies

However, Congress has not passed legislation on gun control since 2013.

Information in the timeline was pulled from NPR.com and CNN.com.

About La'shawn Donelson 4 Articles

Multimedia Journalist. Native Washingtonian. Hope College Alumna. American University ’18.

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