JD Vance ‘disrespecting the dead’ with bump stock remarks, Nevada senator says

<span>The Nevada senator Jacky Rosen criticised Ohio’s JD Vance after he dismissed legislative efforts to ban bump stocks.</span><span>Composite: CQ-Roll Call, Getty Images</span>
The Nevada senator Jacky Rosen criticised Ohio’s JD Vance after he dismissed legislative efforts to ban bump stocks.Composite: CQ-Roll Call, Getty Images

Political ripples from the supreme court’s decision to overturn a Trump White House-era ban on sales of “bump stocks” – a spring-loaded stock that uses recoil to in effect turn a semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun – continued to radiate on Monday when Jacky Rosen took exception to comments on the issue made by his Republican colleague JD Vance.

Vance, the Ohio senator and potential vice-presidential pick as Trump seeks a second presidency in November had dismissed efforts by senior Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, to pass legislation banning the devices as “a huge distraction”.

Vance went further. “What is the real gun violence problem in this country, and are we legislating in a way that solves fake problems? Or solves real problems?” Vance said, before adding: “My very strong suspicion is that the Schumer legislation is aimed at a PR problem, not something that’s going to meaningfully reduce gun violence in this country.”

Rosen, the Democratic senator, hit back, facing re-election this year in politically purple Nevada, the site of the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting that killed 58 and prompted Trump to ban the rapid-fire device.

“This is not a fake problem,” she told reporters. “Let him come to Las Vegas. Let him see the memorial for those people who died. Let him talk to those families. It’s not a fake problem. Those families are dead.”

Rosen said Las Vegas, the gambling mecca and major source of Nevada’s revenue, had been “changed forever because of what the shooter did, and the bump stocks helped him”. She invited Vance to visit memorials to the victims as well as to talk to first responders. “Shame on him,” Rosen added, visibly enraged. “Shame on him for disrespecting the dead.”

In its ruling last week, the conservative majority on the supreme court ruled that the executive branch of government did not have the power to use existing firearms laws to prohibit bump stocks. But the justices allowed legislators to pass new laws banning the accessory.

Schumer and other senior Democrats have since said they would quickly move to do so.

Outcry from Democrats mounted after Vance reasoned that a bill to ban bump stocks would “end up just inhibiting the rights of law-abiding Americans” and mused about how many people would still have been killed if the heavily armed video poker player Stephen Paddock had not outfitted his armory with the contested devices.

“How many people would have been shot alternatively? And you have to ask yourself the question: will anyone actually not choose a bump stock because Chuck Schumer passes a piece of legislation?” Vance said.

After Vance made his comments, Schumer retorted: “Talk to the people in Las Vegas who lost loved ones.”

The supreme court ruling gives both sides of the gun issue red meat for the election campaign, though it is complicated by the initial ban coming from the Trump White House. Lindsey Graham, the Republican South Carolina senator, told NBC News he will block the Democrats’ measure. And Vance questioned Democrats’ legislative priorities.

Chris Murphy, the Democratic Connecticut senator who has championed tougher gun laws after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, said Republicans in his chamber should have no problem voting for the measure banning bump stocks.

“Is it good politics to make it easier for potential mass killers to get their hands on machine guns? Probably not,” Murphy said. “The idea is to try to make this attractive to Republicans. And we would be a lot better off if psychopaths couldn’t get their hands on machine guns.”

Between Friday – when the supreme court’s ruling on bump stocks returned gun control to the top of the national discourse – and Monday, there were 17 mass shootings reported across the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Among those was a shooting Saturday in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in which nine people – including two children – were wounded at a city-run splash pad that families frequent to cool off in the summer. Police said the attack was carried out at random by a gunman who later died by suicide.

Another shooting on Saturday in Round Rock, Texas, saw 14 people wounded and two killed. There, the shooting erupted after an altercation between two groups of people – the victims were uninvolved bystanders, police said.

The non-partisan Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more victims are wounded or killed.

There have been at least 230 such shootings reported in the US so far this year, a high rate which has fueled public calls for more substantial gun control but which Congress for the most part has not heeded.