- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2017

As investigators search for a motive behind last week’s Las Vegas massacre, there is growing consensus in Washington about the need for at least one modest gun control measure — but the agreement ends there, as Democratic lawmakers push for new laws while firearms advocates simply want to tighten existing regulations.

Lawmakers in both parties, the White House and the National Rifle Association have found common ground on outlawing so-called bump stocks, devices that increase rates of fire and can essentially create fully automatic weapons.

Stephen Paddock, the gunman who killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more when he opened fire on a Las Vegas country music festival from inside his hotel room a week ago, used guns equipped with bump stocks.

In the days since, virtually everyone has agreed that the devices constitute a loophole in federal gun laws. The White House, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, NRA officials and Democratic leaders all have said easy access to bump stocks is a problem that must be addressed.

How it is addressed will prove to be much more complicated.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who authored the 1990s ban on assault weapons, said over the weekend that Congress must enact a law banning them or risk seeing a future president simply change federal policy with the stroke of a pen.

“Regulations aren’t going to do it. We need a law. It can’t be changed by another president,” Ms. Feinstein told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” program.

With the political winds seeming to shift in her favor, Ms. Feinstein said she has a bill written in “plain English” that will ban any device designed to increase rates of fire. She said the change in gun laws must be permanent and codified by Congress, not addressed through regulations only.

“Right now we are seeing one president change [the] actions of a president that came before him, and that would happen in this area,” the senator said. “So we need a law, and we have an opportunity to get it. I hope Americans will step up and say enough is enough — Congress, do something.”

But NRA officials, who agree bump stocks pose a problem, seemed to lay the groundwork over the weekend for a stand against Mrs. Feinstein’s looming legislation.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Chris Cox, the head of the National Rifle Association’s legislative arm, said the organization is open to regulations on bump stocks but steered clear of backing a full-out ban.

The federal government “needs to do their job, review these, and if there’s a further regulation, then we’ll work on further regulations,” he said. “We don’t believe that bans have ever worked on anything.”

Existing regulations overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Mr. Cox said, should apply to bump stocks, and he said the White House should take action to further tighten rules.

It’s unclear whether Republicans in Congress will back legislation on a matter that voters could consider as gun control — traditionally a losing issue for many Republicans and one that could carry heavy political consequences.

Last week, Mr. Ryan seemed to suggest that he was open to a bill, though it was clear after Mr. Cox’s remarks Sunday that such a vote would defy the wishes of the powerful NRA.

“Look, I didn’t even know what they were until this week, and I’m an avid sportsman,” Mr. Ryan told MSNBC. “I think we’re fully coming up to speed with what this is. … Apparently this allows you to take a semi-automatic and turn it into a fully automatic, so clearly that’s something that we need to look into.”

Meanwhile, authorities have struggled to find a clear motive behind Paddock’s rampage. The gunman, who took his own life inside his Mandalay Bay hotel room, was well-known in Las Vegas circles and had visited the city on a frequent basis for the past decade.

But powerful figures in Las Vegas say that during all of his time there, Paddock never displayed any clear warning signs nor gave any indication that he was capable of such an atrocity.

Las Vegas titan Steve Wynn said Sunday that his resorts and casinos had an extensive profile on Paddock and there were absolutely no red flags of any kind.

“The most vanilla profile one could possibly imagine,” Mr. Wynn told “Fox News Sunday.”

“A modest gambler, at least by our standards,” he said. “Nothing serious, paid promptly, never owed any money anywhere in Las Vegas. He didn’t fit the profile of a problem or a compulsive gambler. … You never, ever would stop a man like this from coming in the building.”

Mr. Wynn, one of the most prominent figures in Las Vegas, said his properties over the past two years have instituted new security and profiling procedures, including checking on any guest who posts a “do not disturb” sign on their room for longer than 12 hours.

Paddock reportedly kept such a sign on his door for several days leading up to the shooting as he prepped for the rampage.

Still, even with increased security measures, Mr. Wynn said, it would have been next to impossible to predict Paddock’s behavior.

“This behavior, according to my employees, is as stunning and unexpected as anybody any of them have ever met,” he said.

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