While Dems urge action on guns, Republicans call for patience
Republicans on Capitol Hill said Wednesday it is too soon to know whether new gun regulations are needed in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Stephen Paddock killed 58 people in Las Vegas on Sunday night and injured hundreds more when he used modified semiautomatic weapons to rain gunfire on the audience at an outdoor country music concert from a hotel room above them.
The motive is still unknown, but police have said Paddock had more than 20 guns with him in his suite at the Mandalay Bay Casino. So far, there is no indication any were obtained illegally.
The tragedy has spurred Democrats in Congress to demand action on gun control legislation. House Democrats and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly injured in a 2011 mass shooting, held a press conference on the steps of Capitol Wednesday.
“How many more dead bodies will it take to wake up this Congress?” Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., asked. “This must stop and it must stop now.”
While they offered condolences to the victims and their families, Republicans rebuffed that call for action, at least until more information is known about the attack.
“On the policy front, investigators are still collecting all the facts, the Las Vegas police, the Clark County Sheriffs, the FBI,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., “and I think we need to wait until we gather all the facts about exactly what happened, the kind of weapons the shooter used, what motivated him to do this, before we jump to any conclusions.”
“There will be a time to debate that once we have a fully informed factual basis, which right now, we simply do not that,” he added.
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., who spent six years as a prosecutor in Las Vegas, took a similar stance.
“First of all, I think we need to find out what happened there,” he said. “There’s an investigation going on. We need to find out how this individual, the perpetrator acquired these weapons, what occurred, how they were brought there.”
However, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., suggested there should at least be consensus on outlawing the “bump stock” equipment that Paddock reportedly used to make his semiautomatic firearms operate more like automatics.
“Apparently there is a technicality that allows this bump stock to be legal. Clearly I think that will be looked at and probably will be made illegal,” he said. “Particularly if you’ve heard the audio of the shots, it sounded like a military machine gun that was firing.”
Cotton did not address that specific issue, but he indicated his constituents are distrustful of congressional attempts to limit gun rights.
“I think what some people in Washington call common sense gun control sounds to a lot of Arkansans like uninformed efforts to put the federal government even more deeply into the Second Amendment,” he said.
Although there is no evidence yet that Paddock was diagnosed with a mental illness, LaHood said one of his concerns is that many mass shootings do involve the mentally ill, so he wants to ensure that resources are available to treat those people.
Before looking at additional restrictions on firearms, though, LaHood said existing ones need to be taken more seriously.
“If you’re a convicted felon, if you’ve been convicted of domestic violence, if you’ve been diagnosed with mental illness, you cannot have a gun, you cannot purchase a gun,” he said. “We need to enforce the laws we have on the books.”
In addition, Cotton warned that changes to gun laws may have little impact on the likelihood of tragedies like the Las Vegas shooting occurring in the future.
“Ultimately, so many of the regulations we have, they’re not going to stop the kind of evil that we see in so many of these mass shootings,” he said.