Republicans in Congress have already made clear that they do not consider the Las Vegas shooting to be a reason for changing existing gun laws.
In a number of interviews on Monday, just one day after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, GOP lawmakers accused Democrats calling for more gun control of “politicizing” the tragedy and said existing laws should be more strongly enforced.
“The fact that a psychopathic killer murdered innocents is cause for grief. It’s cause for more vigorous law enforcement — for stopping madmen and killers,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told TIME. “But it is not an excuse for Democrats to try and strip away Second Amendment rights from law-abiding citizens.”
On Sunday, 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured in a shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Officials say the shooter modified a semiautomatic weapon with a “bump stock” that allows it to fire more like an automatic weapon.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said the shooting was no reason to restrict gun sales.
“When an Islamic terrorist blows up a school with kids in it, we are told not to judge all Muslims by the acts of a few,” he said. “And I agree with that. So why do we want to judge all 80 million gun owners in America because of the acts of one perverted idiot? I don’t know what else to call him. I don’t think our problem in America is gun laws. I think criminals obey gun laws like politicians keep promises. And I just hate to see this issue politicized. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but they do in this world, and what happened in Las Vegas was terrible. But we can’t legislate away every problem in the world.”
Gun control advocates have criticized Republican lawmakers for sponsoring a bill to make it easier to buy silencers, but Speaker Paul Ryan refused to rule out holding a vote on the bill in the future.
The bill is a broad piece of legislation designed to increase hunters’ access to federal lands, but tucked into it is the silencer provision that is the brainchild of Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina.
Duncan, an avid hunter himself, said Monday that the concerns about the risks of suppressors were “not based on facts.” He also said the events in Las Vegas did not make him reconsider his legislation.
“No, not really, because I understand the facts. If Hillary Clinton were standing right here, I’d tell her that a silencer is not a silencer,” he said, referring to the former presidential candidate’s Monday morning tweets suggesting that silencers would make mass shootings more lethal. “It’s a suppresser. It suppresses the sound to the level of a jackhammer — no one would say a jackhammer is silent. We need to make decisions based on facts.”
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a longtime critic of “bump stocks,” recalled past shootings which did not lead to any legislative actions to restrict gun sales.
“This is so extraordinary, so extreme, and so heartbreaking,” she told reporters on Monday afternoon. “The power of the weapons he used, how he did it, and the anonymity of it — it’s just horrific. I thought Sandy Hook would [change things]. I thought Columbine would. I thought 101 California Street would. None of that did.”
But Republicans argued that it was Democrats like Feinstein who were politicizing the shooting.
“This is a tragedy, and if you’re trying to politicize it, or if anyone is trying to politicize it, then shame on them,” Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado told TIME.
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