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A Bipartisan Bid To Ban Bump Stocks


On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are reacting to Sunday's shooting by trying to move new legislation. And in a departure from recent history, these proposals are coming from both sides of the aisle. Representative Carlos Curbelo is a Republican from the Miami area. He's the author of a new bill to ban the accessory that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to fire so many rounds. And congressman, welcome to the program.

CARLOS CURBELO: Thank you very much for having me.

SIEGEL: These accessories are called bump stocks, and they make a semiautomatic weapon fire as many rounds as a fully automatic weapon. How tightly would your bill restrict bump stocks?

CURBELO: Our goal is to fully prohibit the possession, the transaction of these devices.

SIEGEL: What kind of response have you gotten from Republican colleagues in the House?

CURBELO: The response has been overwhelming. Our office has been flooded with calls. Earlier today when I was on the floor voting, many members came up to me not even knowing yet the details of the legislation that we're going to file tomorrow, yet saying that they were ready to get on board with this new legislation.

SIEGEL: There's also some real resistance. Steve Scalise, who himself was wounded in the July attack on the congressional baseball team, said, I think it's a shame that the day somebody hears about a shooting the first thing they'd think about is, how can I promote my gun control agenda as opposed to it how can I - how do I pray and help the families that are suffering? What do you make of that when even the NRA is saying that there needs to be a close look at bump stocks after this?

CURBELO: Well, I think he's making a serious mistake because in this case it's obvious that our laws failed. Our laws since 1986 prohibit fully automatic weapons. And this device allows for a legal semiautomatic weapon to perform exactly as a fully automatic weapon. So I think all Republicans and Democrats, regardless of our views on the Second Amendment - and by the way, I believe in upholding the Second Amendment. I think we can even strengthen it even further. One of the ways to do that is to promote sensible gun policy. And allowing for people to circumvent existing law just seems completely unreasonable and unacceptable to me. And that's why we're getting so much interest from Democrats and Republicans this time.

SIEGEL: We heard from Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen yesterday, who's a sponsor of a Senate bill there. And he - the Senate bill, the Democratic bill, also cracks down on trigger cranks and other add-ons that accelerate a rifle's fire. Would the House bill do the same? Or is it more restricted?

CURBELO: We are looking at that as well. The goal here is to prevent illegal weapons or weapons that perform as illegal weapons. So any device that could be used to turn a legal weapon into an automatic weapon, which is illegal under existing law, should be banned and prohibited. And the penalties for using one or having one should be significant.

SIEGEL: What do you say to the listener who would say that if Paddock had not had any such devices but if he had simply fired the weapons that he legally had purchased and had in the hotel room with him, he still could have killed a couple of dozen people and no new law would do anything to restrict him from doing that?

CURBELO: Well, certainly we cannot say that this new legislation would have prevented the Las Vegas massacre. But it could have mitigated it. And had we saved one, 10, 20, 30 lives as a result of this legislation, then certainly it would be worthwhile.

SIEGEL: Politically, is the - is your bill and the support it appears to be receiving from other Republicans - is it a turning point in Congress for a - what can be seen as a gun control vote by Republicans?

CURBELO: Only if we get it done. If nothing happens, then it's another disappointment.

SIEGEL: Would Speaker Ryan require a majority of the Republicans in the House to support this for it to go to the floor? Does he support you? And do you think you have a majority of the House Republicans?

CURBELO: I don't know exactly what parameters he's going to put in place for consideration of this legislation or legislation of this nature. However, I'm very confident that today a majority of Republicans in the House would support banning these devices.

SIEGEL: Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, thanks for talking with us.

CURBELO: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.