Travesty gun policy waiting in wings

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.

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 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.



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