Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 7 News List

National Rifle Association backs calls for new curbs

AFP, WASHINGTON

Veronica Hartfield, left, widow of slain Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer Charleston Hartfield, and their 15-year-old son Ayzayah Hartfield attend a vigil for Charleston Hartfield at Police Memorial Park on Thursday in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo: AFP

US lawmakers on Thursday bolstered efforts to ban devices used by the Las Vegas shooter to make his guns fire faster, while the National Rifle Association (NRA) unexpectedly urged federal officials to review the legality of such modifications.

The influential pro-gun lobby group broke from its traditional outright opposition to any gun control efforts by calling on the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to consider changing the laws surrounding so-called “bump stocks.”

“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” it said.

The statement is a notable concession by the group, which has vehemently opposed any efforts to tighten gun laws or limit gun owners’ options to modify their weapons, and it could open the door to a broader debate about bump stocks.

However, should the ATF modify a federal statute to make such devices illegal, the move would circumvent Congress.

As police search for more clues into what drove Stephen Paddock to murder 58 people and wound nearly 500 at a country music concert, the White House also announced it was “open” to further debate about the devices.

The spring-loaded mechanism uses a rifle’s recoil to repeatedly and rapidly pull the trigger, allowing the user to fire several hundred rounds per minute.

“Members of both parties and multiple organizations are planning to take a look at bump stocks,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.

“We welcome that and would like to be part of that conversation,” she said.

As Congress appeared prepared to at least consider moving forward on the first gun limits in years, it emerged that Paddock may have scoped out other major US cities for possible attacks.

Chicago’s Blackstone hotel said a man by the same name had reserved a room there in August — but never checked in — as hundreds of thousands of people were attending the outdoor concert festival Lollapalooza, including Malia Obama, daughter of former US president Barack Obama.

He had also conducted Internet searches in Boston, the Boston Globe reported, raising the prospect that Paddock might have been plotting more attacks.

During the shooting rampage on Sunday night, two bullets hit a fuel storage tank on the perimeter of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport. However, there was “almost zero” chance of fire or explosion because the tank contained a form of kerosene, which is classified as combustible but not flammable, the airport said in a Facebook post.

The NRA and White House announcements give cover to Republican lawmakers, many of whom receive NRA funding, to back current legislation that would ban the sale of bump stocks.

“Clearly this is something we need to look into,” US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, told MSNBC.

House and Senate Democrats have introduced bills banning bump stocks and similar devices, such as trigger cranks, that can accelerate the firing rate of a semi-automatic weapon to nearly that of a machine gun.

US Senator Diane Feinstein, whose assault weapons ban was defeated in 2013, four months after the Newtown shooting where 20 elementary school children were shot dead, said she hoped now was the time Republicans could support her measure to curtail use of the devices.

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