WASHINGTON — Gov. John Kasich and several Ohio GOP lawmakers joined the National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump on Thursday in saying they are open to possible legislation barring gun owners from modifying their semi–automatics into automatic weapons.
In the wake of the shooting deaths of 59 people attending an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas, Ohio Republicans remain opposed to broad new restrictions on guns, such as universal background checks and curbing the sale of semi-automatic rifles.
But in a sign that the Las Vegas shooting has prompted at least a small shift in long-held attitudes, the NRA's leader said Thursday there should be "additional regulation" on devices known as a "bump stock" which allowed the Las Vegas shooter to transform legal semi–automatic guns into automatic weapons that can fire as many as 800 bullets in a minute. The White House also indicated it is open to the idea.
In addition, Republican Congressmen such as Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington, Pat Tiberi of Genoa Township and Bill Johnson of Marietta joined those willing to take a fresh look at the bump stock.
Blaming a 2010 Obama administration letter that allowed such devices to be legal, Dayton Republican Mike Turner called on Congress to review whether the modification "is still appropriate" while Stivers said the issue "should be re–examined."
Tiberi, Stivers and Turner, meanwhile, signed a letter calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to "re–evaluate bump stocks and other similar mechanisms to ensure full compliance with federal law."
Johnson, an ardent supporter of gun rights, said he was "willing to look" at a prospective bill banning bump stock devices, although he said "now is not the time for that conversation."
Federal law prohibits private civilian ownership of any automatic weapon built after 1986. But the bump stock has been used to essentially circumvent that ban.
Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D–California, introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, a measure swiftly endorsed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio. A spokeswoman for Sen. Rob Portman, R–Ohio, who has been a longtime supporter of gun rights, said "we will do our due diligence on this legislation and review."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters "we want to be part of that discussion, and we're certainly open to that moving forward.
On the CBS Morning News, Kasich went even further, saying "of course" he supports outlawing bump devices.
The GOP governor acknowledged he did not "know if I can pass" such a ban in Ohio, although he said "people of good will have to sit in a room and hammer something out."
When asked if Kasich had plans to hold such meetings, Jon Keeling, a Kasich spokesman, said "we will make an effort to keep you apprised as these conversations develop."
It was a marked shift by Kasich, who as governor has signed bills allowing people to carry concealed guns on college campuses and day–care centers and for hunters to use noise suppressors while hunting certain birds and quadrapeds.
On the broader issue of whether Americans should have relatively easy access to high–capacity semi–automatic guns, Republicans have shown little interest in Democratic-sponsored measures to require universal background checks before purchasing them.
"We must outlaw tools like bump stocks that make firearms even more lethal," said Andrew Patrick, a spokesman for the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "But that’s not enough. Bump stocks do not typically contribute much to the 36,000 American gun deaths we see every year."
Rep. Jim Renacci, R–Wadsworth, who is seeking next year’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, said "while I know the media is anxious to start and politicize the gun control debate, I believe we must allow the FBI and local police to continue their investigation and establish the facts at this point."
Rep. Bob Gibbs, R–Lakeville, said that "even the strictest gun laws don’t stop the thousands of shootings in cities like Chicago. We shouldn’t be rushing to hastily pass laws with no regard for effectiveness or constitutionality, especially since this investigation is just beginning and there are so many unanswered questions."
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said "the aftermath of a shocking and unimaginable tragedy like what just happened in Las Vegas is not the time to play politics. The Second Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, and so when the time comes to address what happened, anything we do to try and stop similar horrific and astonishing acts of evil like this must be consistent with the Constitution."
By contrast, Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus-area Democrat, called for "immediate action," saying "prayers are needed — and certainly help — but alone will not solve this problem."
Sen. Brown said he was "incredulous that no matter what happens ... that my colleagues are doing the bidding of the gun lobby. It’s clear we can do common sense things here to protect the American public better."
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, said, "We cannot accept the notion that living in America means living with mass shootings as a common occurrence." He added that Congress can approve some gun restrictions without denting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.