Congressional Republicans are considering a rare gun regulation in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and conservative media is pushing back.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday joined a number of Republicans saying they are open to potentially regulating or banning the “bump-stocks” found in the hotel room of the shooter in Las Vegas earlier this week, which left at least 59 dead and over 500 wounded.
Bump stocks are modifications that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at the higher rates that simulate automatic weapons, which are illegal and far more difficult to obtain.
But many conservative media outlets, which often mirror sentiments among the base and help stoke action, aren’t convinced.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board dismissed the argument that gun control — and banning bump stocks specifically — would stop mass shootings, writing that the practice of bumping a trigger manually with one’s finger “long predates bump stocks or other accessories.”
Other sites more aligned with the conservative grassroots went further.
Breitbart News has run several articles in the last several days criticising Republicans for considering legislation to ban the gun modifications.
In a headline on the site on Thursday, Breitbart framed an Associated Press story about GOP leaders considering a bump stock ban as a “widespread cave,” while the top story on the site described White House counselor Kellyanne Conway as “weak” for telling CNN that the administration is open to a gun control conversation.
And on Wednesday, the site ran a story titled “Five Key Facts About Bump-Stock Devices.” The story pointed out that bump-stocks decrease accuracy and aren’t the only devices that modify semi-automatic weapons to increase the rate of fire. Moreover, Breitbart Second Amendment columnist AWR Hawkins wrote that eliminating them would be part of a “typical leftist war on the poor.”
“A ban on bump-stock devices takes away the $US200 device poorer citizens can buy to at least pretend to be shooting the real machines they will never be able to afford,” Hawkins wrote.
The Daily Caller, the right-leaning digital site founded by Tucker Carlson, hasn’t outright endorsed bump stocks, but has taken to trolling gun control proponents and chastising outlets like CNN for their coverage of bump stocks.
In separate posts, the site wrote that host Chris Cuomo spread “fake news” about bump stocks and that host John Berman “flaunted his lack of firearm knowledge” by saying that the bump stock converts a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon.
Though Cuomo and Berman were essentially making the point that a bump stock helps users mimic the high rates of fire of automatic weapons, the site’s media reporter instead focused on the semantic argument, insisting that bump stock rifles “still require one trigger pull per shot.”
Further, the Daily Caller’s David Hookstead, one of the site’s vocal gun enthusiasts, wrote a column praising a viral video that attempts to troll gun-control proponents by pretending a bump stock-modified rifle could fire 70,000 rounds per minute.
“This is one of the greatest troll jobs I’ve seen in a very long time,” Hookstead wrote on the site. “The best part is we all know there are people who watched this, shared it and commented on the video who fully believe what he did would actually work.”
Others have attempted to blame the sale of bump stocks on former President Barack Obama.
Echoing a sentiment circulating around conservative media, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pointed out on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that in 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms decided against classifying the weapons as automatic. In 2010, the Texas-based company Slide Fire petitioned the ATF to allow the bump-stocks to exist.
“This is a device that Obama’s ATF decided would not be regulated in 2010 and I think that’s an important part of this conversation,” she said.
It remains unclear whether many top Trump boosters will come out against bump stock regulation.
Thus far, some of President Donald Trump’s favourite opinion hosts on Fox News like Sean Hannity haven’t seriously weighed-in on the issue, but a few regular Trump defenders have expressed an openness to regulating bump stocks.
Greg Gutfeld, a co-host of Fox’s “The Five,” told viewers two days in a row that he supported banning bump stocks, while major Trump booster Jesse Watters admitted that he understood why Republicans would want to look at banning the devices.
“I agree with Greg,” Watters conceded. “Bump stocks might have to be looked at.”
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