Matthew T. Mangino: The NRA’s silence was deafening
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The National Rifle Association has broken its silence. In the days immediately following the Las Vegas massacre nary a word from the gun advocacy group.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the NRA, said in a statement last night “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
In the same statement the NRA blamed the massacre on the Obama Administration and claimed gun control laws would not stop further attacks, and called on Congress to pass a law that would make it easier for owners to carry weapons across state lines.
Contrast that with the NRA’s response in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald shot the president with an Italian military surplus rifle purchased from a NRA mail-order advertisement.
At the time, NRA Executive Vice-President Franklin Orth, according to Time, told a congressional hearing that mail-order sales should be banned, “We do think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”
For the NRA silence was the course of action after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, after the Sandy Hook elementary school killings in Newtown and after the massacre at Virginia Tech.
Stephen Paddock murdered 59 people and wounded hundreds more while shooting out of a 32nd floor hotel window into a Las Vegas outdoor concert. Along with the 23 guns that police officers found in Paddock's hotel room, officials also found “bump stocks." The device alluded to by the NRA’s LaPierre uses a semi-automatic weapon's recoil to allow it to fire repeatedly at a rate closer to that of a fully-automatic weapon.
Jill Snyder, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told CNN that Paddock rigged 12 semi-automatic rifles with bump stocks.
According to the New York Times, bump stocks replace a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger, causing the rifle to fire far faster than an unaided finger can pull a trigger.
Why does the average American sportsman need an assault rifle modified to be an automatic weapon?
The simple answer is — he doesn’t. As Justin Peters wrote for Slate after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, an “AR-15 is very good at one thing: Engaging the enemy at a rapid rate of fire. When (a mass shooter kills multiple people in a short period of time) he’s committing a crime, but he isn’t misusing the rifle. That’s exactly what it was engineered to do.”
Although, lawmakers refused to act after Virginia Tech, Newtown and the Pulse nightclub there appears to be at least some appetite among all important GOP lawmakers for outlawing bump stocks. Hence the NRA’s belated reaction.
Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill that he had "no problem" banning the device. "Automatic weapons are illegal," he said. "To me, that is part of that same type of process. So I have no problem banning those."
Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, said he would like a hearing on the issue to learn more and said he has already brought it up to Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee.
Not everyone is on board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN, "The investigation has not even been completed, and I think it's premature to be discussing legislative solutions if there are any.”
Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama made his position clear when he spoke to reporters, "I'm a Second Amendment man. I'm not for any gun control. None."
Maybe this massacre — unlike the others — will not slowly drift from our collective conscience and with it any chance to enact common sense gun laws?
— Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.