The gun control debate is up and running again in the wake of the Las Vegas concert massacre, with Democrats pushing for more restrictions and Republicans standing strong behind the Second Amendment.
But this time there’s a twist.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans have gotten on board with plans to review restrictions on attachments — called bump stocks — that are used to make semi-automatic rifles mimic fully automatic weapons.
Authorities have said that the Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, outfitted his rifles with bump stocks, which allowed him to fire thousands of rounds at a crowd of concertgoers, killing 58 and injuring more than 500. Paddock killed himself in his hotel room he had used as his perch to fire into the crowd.
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Thursday, the National Rifle Association stepped up the call for the review of bump stocks, saying it has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.”
Already, Walmart and Cabela’s are among the chains that have stopped selling these devices since the Las Vegas shooting. Several local gun stores, including Winchester Gallery Gun Store and Elk Castle Shooting Sports, both in Fort Worth, and Euless Gun and Ammo, say they don’t sell these devices.
Texas Republicans U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Bill Flores of Waco are among those who have said they support looking at restrictions on the device.
Cornyn said he has talked to fellow lawmakers about holding a hearing on this issue, as well as addressing any other angles “that we need to look at from a federal perspective.”
But although there is agreement on the issue of bump stocks, many people — both politicians and gun advocates — say there should not be a rush to judgment on gun control because of the mass shooting.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton — an Ennis Republican who was among those caught in the path of gunfire earlier this year during a congressional baseball practice — said Congress should tread carefully.
“If there is action on gun control, Congress should take the lead,” said Barton, whose district includes part of Arlington. “However, we must ensure that we protect the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms. A mentally competent, law-abiding citizen must always be able to own a firearm.”
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, who also was caught in the baseball practice shooting, said he wants to avoid rash reactions to the Las Vegas massacre.
“When tragedies, such as the Las Vegas shooting, happen in our nation, it is often a knee-jerk reaction from the left to call for Congress to implement more regulations, such as stronger gun control — this is not the answer,” said Williams, a Weatherford auto dealer.
“This is still an ongoing investigation and right now our focus needs be on helping the people and law enforcement of Las Vegas in any way that we can,” Williams said.
“I have always been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and disarming America, by increasing legislation, will not fix problems like this.”
‘I love my guns’
In Texas, where about 1.2 million people have a license to carry guns — and gun shows are as easy to find as a chicken-fried steak — there’s a show this weekend in Mesquite, which is where Paddock lived in North Texas as late as 2010.
Here, local gun store owners are adamant about their rights.
“The Constitution and the 2nd Amendment clearly state, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,’” Kenny Frazier, owner of the Crazy Gun Dealer in Alvarado, told the Star-Telegram by email.
“There is no questioning the exact quote, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ It is the right of the PEOPLE, not state or any other government, THE PEOPLE!!!!!!”
Said Jose Ruiz, assistant manager at Purple Heart Pawn and Guns in Fort Worth: “I love my guns. And I love the freedom we have as Americans.”
For some, the Las Vegas shooting changed the way they think.
Caleb Keeter, a guitarist with the Texas-based Josh Abbott Band who was on the stage performing when Paddock began shooting, said the experience changed his life. So he began calling for immediate reform.
“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life,” Keeter posted on Twitter. “Until the events of (Oct. 1). I cannot express how wrong I was.
“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW,” he wrote. “My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”
Ruiz, however, counters that he doesn’t know how a change in law could have prevented the shooting.
“The guy bought everything legally,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about ... the people who just lose it. There’s no way to see it coming.”
He’s not opposed to talking about gun safety, because “you never know what they might come up with.”
‘Paranoid personality disorder’
Not long after the shooting, President Donald Trump described Paddock as “a sick, demented man with a lot of problems.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was equally as blunt, saying “the fact that a psychopathic killer murdered innocents is cause for grief, it’s cause for more vigorous law enforcement, and for stopping madmen and killers.”
There is no questioning the exact quote, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’
Kenny Frazier, owner of the Crazy Gun Dealer in Alvarado
Mental health experts say the president and Cruz may be right — and that’s why mental disorders should be part of any burgeoning gun debate.
Some suggest that Paddock’s mental state gradually deteriorated in the weeks leading up to the shooting, which law enforcement authorities have said was well planned.
It’s been widely reported that Paddock bought pistols and semi-automatic handguns at B & S Guns in Garland in recent years and had methodically stockpiled dozens of weapons that were found in his hotel room and house in Nevada.
More recent reports suggest he was casing other music festivals.
“The majority of mass murderers are mentally ill, and very often they have a paranoid personality disorder that causes them to be disgruntled with parts of their environments that they perceive as unfair and for which they hold a grudge,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State University Indiana and author of the 2016 study titled Firearm Violence by the Mentally Ill: Mental Health Professionals' Perceptions and Practices.
“The idea that someone can just ‘snap’ is the fictitious creation of Hollywood movies and television shows,” Khubchandani said.
‘An absolutely despicable display’
The topic of gun control has played out in offices, talk radio and TV talk shows.
ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel took to the TV, saying he doesn’t understand why something can’t be done.
“When someone with a beard attacks us, we tap phones, we invoke travel bans, we build walls, we take every possible precaution to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said during his show. “But when an American buys a gun and kills other Americans, then there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Fox TV pundit Sean Hannity took a different approach, suggesting that gun control enthusiasts were using the mass shooting to politicize the “tragedy in an absolutely despicable display.”
“Bodies weren’t even in the morgue yet,” Hannity said. “Parents were in hospitals with their kids who are hanging onto life. None of this mattered to the left in this country.”
Among those calling for reform were people connected to past shootings, from former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a 2011 constituent meeting in Arizona, to Sandy Hook Promise, a group that advocates for gun restrictions on behalf of those who died and were injured in the 2012 school shooting.
“If Congress refuses to summon the courage to stand up to the gun lobby to keep our communities safer from gun violence, then we must be willing to elect officials who are willing to put people first,” says a statement from Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.
Changing state and federal laws, training people to identify the signs of violence and encouraging activism are among the steps advocated by Sandy Hook Promise.
“We need politicians in D.C. and our states to show leadership and take action,” the group said in a statement. “Today IS the time to have these conversations if we are going to prevent the shootings of tomorrow. Inaction leads to more Americans dying.”
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, agrees that Congress should look at gun violence in the U.S.
“That means enacting stricter penalties on criminals who commit crimes with guns,” her spokesman Spencer Freebairn said in a statement. “The automatic weapon used in Las Vegas is already illegal, which highlights the need to focus on the criminals committing these crimes.”