October 5, 2017 / 3:48 PM / 9 months ago

Congress needs to examine gun 'bump stock' devices: U.S. House speaker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers need to examine “bump stock” gun accessories, devices that enable some guns to be turned into rapid-fire weapons, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday, opening the door to possible debate on gun control by the Republican-controlled Congress.

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. on September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files

“Clearly that’s something we need to look into,” Ryan told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, adding that many lawmakers had not been aware until now that such devices existed. An excerpt from the interview aired on MSNBC.

A shooting rampage on Sunday night in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded nearly 500, the most deadly mass shooting in modern U.S. history, has reignited debate around regulation of firearms.

Officials said 12 of the rifles authorities recovered from a hotel suite in Las Vegas used by gunman Stephen Paddock were fitted with bump stocks, allowing the guns to be fired almost as though they were automatic weapons.

“I didn’t even know what they were until this week,” Ryan said, referring to bump stocks. “I think we’re quickly coming up to speed with what this is.”

His remarks followed a call on Wednesday by the U.S. Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn, for lawmakers to investigate bump stocks, as Democrats pushed for a ban on the devices.

A sign is pictured at a makeshift memorial in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Republicans, and some Democrats, are generally reluctant to push for tighter controls on firearms ownership, which is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Automatic weapons have been largely illegal for decades, but bump stock devices offer a way around that.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has called for bump stocks to be banned.

U.S. Representative David Cicilline, also a Democrat, has also proposed a ban, with a bill in the House of Representatives that he said has 148 co-sponsors. None are Republicans, he told CNN, although he is talking with about five or six conservatives to seek their support.

A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team works to map the crime scene near a memorial in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

“I think there is bipartisan interest,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

In the interview with Ryan aired by MSNBC, the top House Republican gave no other details about what action the Republican-controlled House might take toward bump stock devices, or what the timeline would be for any legislative steps. Republicans also control the Senate and the White House.

Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Frances Kerry

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