Senate Republicans say it's too soon to examine gun laws after Vegas shooting

Liz Goodwin
Senior National Affairs Reporter
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Senate Republicans said it was “inappropriate” and too early to discuss any gun reforms in response to Sunday’s attack in Las Vegas.

“Look, the investigation’s not even been completed and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I think it’s particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this. It just happened within the last day and a half.”

McConnell repeatedly avoided questions about whether he believed bump stocks — devices that allow people to make semi-automatic weapons even more powerful by automating the trigger-pull mechanism — should be made illegal. The Associated Press reported that suspected Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had two bump stocks in his possession.

Several senators said potential gun reforms or other legislative responses to the Vegas massacre did not come up in the Republican senators’ weekly policy lunch, which was focused on tax reform.

“I think it’s too early for that,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “I don’t know all the facts and I don’t think we will for the next couple of days and figure out what was behind it, [what was] in this person’s head.”

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the Senate leadership team, told NBC News that his caucus will “look at the facts when we get them all in here,” but added that it’s hard to prevent attacks in an open society.

“I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions,” Thune said of mass shootings. “And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said — get small.”

Mourners at a makeshift memorial on the Las Vegas Strip. (Photo: Eugene Garcia/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

But some Republican senators sounded open to some changes in current gun laws.

“I’m open-minded to anything that will shed light on what happened and how to fix it without giving people false hope that we’re one law change away from fixing things like this,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “But you know, how did he get the guns? Was there a loophole he used? Was there an inadequacy in the law? I’d be very much concerned about that.”

The president, who once supported a ban on assault weapons before abandoning that position as a candidate, also sounded open to reviewing gun laws but at some point in the future.

“We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on,” Trump told reporters Tuesday morning.

At the very least, the Vegas shooting appears to have stalled House Republicans’ plan to push through two National Rifle Association-backed bills easing gun restrictions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Tuesday that a vote on a bill to roll back regulations on gun silencers was not scheduled and he had no plans to put it on the calendar. Another bill easing regulations on carrying guns across state lines has also stalled. Both were expected to move through the House this month.

“When two mass shootings force you to delay a bill that would make those mass shootings harder to detect and stop, maybe that’s a sign you ought to let go of the bill go, once and for all,“ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor Tuesday.

House Democrats sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday urging him to press Republicans to come up with legislative solutions to gun violence and mass shootings. Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi asked Speaker Ryan to form a select committee to look into the issue.

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