SALT LAKE CITY — Some Republicans in Congress, including members of the all-GOP Utah delegation, are willing to look at banning a gun accessory that the Las Vegas gunman used to modify his rifles to fire like automatic weapons.
Gun shops across the country are reportedly selling out of the device known as a bump fire stock, and online retailers are being inundated with orders. Meantime, Cabela's and Walmart have taken them off the shelf.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., planned to introduce legislation Thursday to ban the sale of bump stocks.
"I think we are on the verge of a breakthrough when it comes to sensible gun policy," he told reporters, saying his office has been "flooded" with calls from other lawmakers asking about the bill.
Republicans, sometimes joined by conservative Democrats, have blocked proposed changes to gun laws after mass shootings going back to rampages at Virginia Tech in 2007, a Connecticut elementary school five years ago and an Orlando nightclub last year.
Utah GOP members of Congress reaffirmed their support for gun rights, while expressing a willingness to consider restrictions on bump stocks.
“I don’t know much about those but I’m not against doing something about that. I’m very concerned with what police found in that hotel room," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told reporters.
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said she is a firm believer in the Second Amendment and would not support any bill that takes the right to bear arms away from law-abiding citizens.
"However, any device that converts a legal firearm to an illegal firearm deserves closer scrutiny," she said in a statement.
In a series of tweets, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said that he has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives why bump stocks were approved without restriction in 2010 and again in 2012. The White House on Thursday made a point of saying that approval came under the Obama administration.
Stewart, who shot automatic weapons in the military and has a concealed gun permit, said like most Americans and most gun owners, he wasn’t aware of bump stocks.
"My view — these devices circumvent the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act. This type of modification to a gun should be controlled," he tweeted.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is waiting for all the facts from the Las Vegas shooting to be confirmed by authorities before jumping to any conclusions about possible policy changes, according to his office.
Lee Lonsberry, a spokesman for Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said while the congressman is committed to defending Second Amendment rights, he would continue to review any and all legislation regarding this firearm accessory.
The National Rifle Association called on the ATF to review whether bump fire stocks comply with federal law.
"The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and executive director Chris Cox said in a joint statement.
Doug Shoot'n Sports in Taylorsville has sold a "handful" of bump stocks the last few years but "nothing crazy," said owner Dave Larsen.
Larsen said he doesn't stock them now and won't be getting any in the future because manufacturers are not selling to wholesalers anymore in favor of direct sales to consumers.
Texas-based Slide Fire sold out of the devices within days of the Las Vegas shooting. It posted a note to customers on its website: "We have decided to temporarily suspend taking new orders in order to provide the best service with those already placed."
Larsen said he doesn't see a reason to ban bump stocks, which he said do not turn rifles into a fully automatic weapons, contrary to what some claim.
"When are we going to make our cars not go faster than 70 mph? Just because you own a car doesn't make you want to drive it drunk, right? Just because you own a hammer, it doesn't want to make you beat someone, right?" he said.
The whole premise of creating a law to prevent lawlessness is terribly flawed, Larsen said. He said he understands people's feeling about the issue and nobody wants a mass shooting.
"But had (the Las Vegas gunman) rented a U-Haul truck and driven it through the gates at that concert, he probably would have hurt or killed every bit as many people as he did. And we wouldn't have been going after U-Haul trucks," he said.49 comments on this story
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said the bump stock isn't a great product and doesn't improve accuracy. And though it doesn't have a specific use, gun enthusiasts have enjoyed using it without a "pattern of problems" and it shouldn't be banned, he said.
"But by saying I don’t think we should ban it doesn’t mean I’m an apologist or I support or condone any illegal behavior, let alone what this monster did in Las Vegas," Aposhian said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Asked if using a bump stock thwarts the intent of federal law, Aposhian said that's a good question that needs to be discussed. But he said the device isn't a illegal and doesn't turn the weapon into a machine gun under current law.