As new details of the deadly Las Vegas shooting become known — not only to the American people, but to their representatives in Congress — one top member of House Republican leadership said she is willing to open the door to gun legislation.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Republican chair, aired concerns about so-called bump stock modifications that allow semi-automatic rifles to function like near-automatic weapons, and whether such attachments should be legal.
“We are talking to ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], we are talking to others — what is this device, how exactly it works and if it has the effect of being a machine gun, whether or not that should be allowed or, who should have access to these types of weapons,” Rodgers told ABC News’ Rick Klein and MaryAlice Parks on the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast this week.
A rifle modified with a bump stock or similar device, like 12 of the weapons found in Stephen Paddock’s Mandalay Bay Hotel room, makes it possible to fire at near-machine gun speed. Fully automatic rifles manufactured before 1986 are still legal but must be registered with the government and are tightly controlled.
The details are still coming out, Rodgers said, and there are many questions to be answered.
Since elected in 2005, Rodgers has been a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and recieved an A Rating from the NRA on gun access.
She has supported legislation on traveling from state to state with concealed carry permits, interstate gun sales and banning gun registration and trigger lock law in Washington, D.C.
In September, Rodgers’ own district felt the shock of gun violence when a sophomore in Spokane, Washington, brought a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun to his high school, killing one and wounding three others. Freeman High became the 31st U.S. school this year to have a shooting, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
“We absolutely must do everything possible,” Rodgers told “Powerhouse Politics.”
“Congress has taken action on mental health reform. I was proud to support mental health reform. I think when you look at a lot of these incidents, people have mental illness,” Rodgers said. “However, I believe that there are other issues that need to be looked at, that is much bigger than a simple law that we could pass that may or, may not make a difference.”
With the addition of Rodgers, the handful of Republicans who are willing to take a look at what the bump stock”modification means for safety is growing.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-TX, also voiced concern over the attachment, telling reporters it would be “worthwhile” to at least hold a hearing on “bump stocks.”
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA, who co-authored the last comprehensive effort on gun control, agrees.
“While I am generally skeptical of banning firearms or firearm accessories outright, I am certainly open to Congress holding hearings to learn more about bump stocks and related matters,” Toomey said in a statement.
A spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Republican from South Carolina is also on board. Graham and Cornyn both sit on the Judiciary Committee where such a hearing would make the most sense.
The list goes on: Sens. Susan Collins, R-ME, John Thune, R-SD, Jeff Flake, R-AZ and Ron Johnson, R-WI and Senate Homeland Security chairman, have also expressed willingness to review bump-stock legislation.
Across the aisle, Democrats are more than willing to have a conversation. One such politician is Rep. Seth Moulton, D-MA, a former Marine infantry officer and second-term congressman, who joined the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast this week to voice support for gun safety as a self-described “Democrat who knows guns.”
“To be honest, I don’t know how many innocent Americans have to die before our Republican leadership is willing to even just have a debate on this issue, let alone a vote,” Moulton said. Yet, he said he’s had conversations that point toward progress.
“I know that I’m working behind the scenes with Republicans, with colleagues of mine who are willing to cross the aisle on this, who are going to push their own leadership to bring these issues up for a debate and a vote, and we’re going to try to get some things done,” he said.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was not one of the hopeful conversations Moulton speaks of. He approached Ryan in private, he said, to ask if there is a way the two parties could come together — but he was dismayed by the result. “I just have to say, he was not optimistic,” Moulton said. “He didn’t offer any suggestions, and that was disappointing.”
“I understand that he has political pressure from the NRA and from members of his caucus, but he’s the speaker of the House — he is supposed to be a leader here in Washington, he should do his job and figure out a way to move this forward,” Moulton said.
Despite his disappointment with Ryan, other conversations are ongoing.
“I’ve had several discussions with Republicans just in the last 24 hours about things that we can do, legislative strategies that we can … take to try to get more Republicans on board,” he said. “And I’m going to keep plugging away at that.”
He counts his service in Iraq and familiarity with guns as a credibility advantage in talks with Republican colleagues.
“As one told me today, ‘I know you’re not going to just do the political thing, you’re not just going to be radical about this; you’re someone that’s reasonable and I can work with’,” Moulton said.
Despite the new congressman’s efforts, past tragedies are an indication that Moulton and his colleagues have an uphill battle ahead: The longstanding challenge of bipartisan gun control in the U.S.