ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The Las Vegas massacre may have shaken Congress out of decades of gridlock around gun control. Democrats are pushing for a ban on the bump stocks the shooter possessed. Bump stocks can make semiautomatic rifles fire like automatic weapons. Many Republicans say they are open to the proposal. And in a surprising turn, the National Rifle Association said this afternoon that it would support more regulation of bump stocks.
NPR's Scott Detrow is on Capitol Hill and joins us now. And Scott, Congress hasn't exactly been a bill passing machine recently, and yet this whole conversation seems to be moving very rapidly.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: That's right. Dianne Feinstein introduced this bill yesterday. And given how every other recent attempt at gun control has gone, most of the questions at the press conference boiled down to, why do you have any hope this would get any support? But then several Republicans said the idea made sense, or at least it was worth taking a close look at. One of those was House Speaker Paul Ryan. He was speaking to Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC.
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PAUL RYAN: Look; I didn't even know what they were at - until this week, and I'm an avid sportsman. So I think we're quickly coming up to speed with what this is. Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time. Apparently this allows you to take a semiautomatic, turn it into a fully automatic. So clearly that's something we need to look into.
DETROW: It is worth pointing out, worth looking into is a long way from we'll hold a vote on this next week. But this is more of an opening than any gun control bill has seen in a long time even if a bump stock ban is a much more limited measure than what many Democrats would like to see.
SIEGEL: The NRA of course is a big player here. It's powerful. It has successfully fought previous efforts to change gun laws. What exactly did the group say today about bump stocks?
DETROW: Well, what they said was the first thing they've said in a long time. The NRA has been very silent since the shooting. It hadn't posted on its Twitter account in five days. But it was a bit of a surprise. The NRA put out a statement saying, quote, "the NRA believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations."
There is a bit of a catch here. They're calling for a review from the executive branch, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. So this is not an endorsement of a bill, and the NRA is also not endorsing a full ban here. And they did put at the end of their statement a line saying that, quote, "banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks."
SIEGEL: Well, given the fact that the NRA is not shutting down this idea of restrictions on bump stocks, what have you heard from Republicans there on the Hill about how this conversation will progress?
DETROW: So many Republicans here and the White House is saying something similar. They're saying they welcome hearings on this. So that would be the next step probably. But again, a hearing is a long way from a vote. And for all the attention that's being paid to the Republicans saying they support this idea, you know, many members are in the same place as Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta - just very skeptical of any new gun control measure.
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LOU BARLETTA: You know, that being said, regardless of what we do, the only people who follow the laws that we create here are law-abiding citizens. I learned that as a mayor. It doesn't matter sometimes how many laws we create. Bad people are going to do bad things and find ways to get it.
DETROW: So there are now two bills that have been introduced. No Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors yet. We are expecting a similar bill to be introduced by a House Republican, Carlos Curbelo of Florida. It will be key to see how many Republicans sign onto that measure.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Scott Detrow on Capitol Hill. Scott, thanks.
DETROW: Thanks, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.