Choose your own theory. Pelosi said this not realizing it would totally freak out Republicans who are otherwise open to restricting bump stocks, or she said it because she did know and is trying to engineer precisely that outcome.
Normally I’d go with theory two but she’s old and occasionally, ahem, absent-minded.
Nah, c’mon. It’s obviously theory two.
“Clearly that’s something we need to look into,” [Paul] Ryan said [of banning bump stocks] on MSNBC. He said he was not aware of what “bump stocks” were before Sunday’s shooting, which left at least 58 dead and hundreds injured.
“We’re going to look at the issue,” [Judiciary Committee chair Bob] Goodlatte told The Washington Post. Asked if he had a personal concern about their legality, he said, “I have a personal concern about what happened.”…
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged Ryan to allow a vote on a Democratic bill to ban the devices. When asked whether the bill might represent a slippery slope toward other gun restrictions, Pelosi said, “So what? . . . I certainly hope so.”
“I own a lot of guns, and as a hunter and sportsman, I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock,” said none other than John Cornyn, the number two man in the Senate yesterday. Mark Meadows, head of the House Freedom Caucus, is also willing to consider a ban. That’s a lot of Republican leaders spending political capital on a potential gun-control measure, a once-in-a-generation thing in modern politics. So why’s Pelosi trying to spook them?
You can guess. She knows most of the public will support a bump-stock ban, just as most of the public supports expanding background checks for gun purchases, and she’s eager to keep Republicans on the wrong side of those numbers. Although Americans are more pro-gun than they used to be, Democrats get mileage (especially among their base) from the perception that the congressional GOP is in the NRA’s pocket and will fanatically oppose any gun restriction, no matter how high the death toll climbs. Restricting bump stocks is an easy way for Republicans to knock some wind out of that accusation. Unlike most gun-control measures favored by the left, a bump-stock ban actually might have made a difference in Vegas. And bump stocks, by mimicking automatic fire, tread on legal ground that was marked off as (mostly) forbidden decades ago. The GOP could use a bump-stock ban as a shield against other, dumber regulations, like the one on suppressors that Jeff Duncan is currently trying to undo. “We can and do support reasonable gun regulations,” they could say, pointing to bump stocks. “But the usual Democratic menu of restrictions isn’t reasonable.” A sensible compromise would be GOP support for banning bump stocks in return for Democratic support for deregulating suppressors, which gun owners use to protect their hearing.
If you’re Pelosi, you’ve gotta put a stop to that fast. The surest route is to not only endorse the idea yourself, rendering it dodgy on the right by association with her (see, e.g., Trump’s DREAM deal), but to seemingly confirm the NRA’s worst fears by admitting that the left will try to exploit a bump-stock ban as a slippery slope to more gun control. Ryan and McConnell might be able to resist being baited by the left that way if the right were solidly behind them — but they’re going to get heat from some on the right too. It’s a pincer movement!
Bill Flores (R-TX) tells me and @kristinapet the NRA reached out in concern yesterday after seeing his quotes for regulating bump stocks
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) October 5, 2017
Yesterday Flores suggested he’d be open to a bump-stock ban and now the NRA’s unhappy. Meanwhile, other Republicans in Congress like Richard Shelby will oppose any attempts at gun control as an infringement on the Second Amendment even without prodding from the NRA. That makes the politics here dicey for Republican leaders even though polling will show, I suspect, that a heavy majority of the public overall supports a bump-stock ban. If Ryan brings a bill to the floor, Pelosi will crow that thus begins a golden age of gradually eliminating firearms in America; the NRA will howl, and populists like Roy Moore will seize on the bill as proof that the farking RINOs in Washington are ready to sell out red-blooded Americans again. It’ll be the same dynamic as the effort after Sandy Hook to expand background checks: Nearly the entire country is broadly but tepidly in favor of it, but the small minority who aren’t *really* aren’t and are prepared to make Republicans pay politically.
And in fairness to both Pelosi and right-wing opponents of a ban, there is a tiny slippery-slope risk here. “Bump fire,” which allows a semiautomatic to fire at a rate similar to a machine gun, can be achieved even without the stock with some practice. It’s a technique. The stock, as I understand it, just makes it a bit easier to use the force of the gun’s recoil to “jackhammer” it between your shoulder and trigger finger. If bump stocks are banned on grounds that a semiautomatic that can fire like an automatic is, for legal purposes, an automatic, then arguably *any* semiautomatic rifle that can be bump-fired is a de facto automatic whether it has a bump stock or not. I think the risk of sliding that far on the slippery slope is vanishingly small, as most firearms in America are semiautomatic and Americans aren’t about to sit by and watch their guns disappear. But that’s the “slippery slope” argument, if you’re looking for one.
Two clips for you here, one of Pelosi babbling about how great it would be if a bump-stock ban encouraged more gun control and another, apropos of nothing, from last night via the Free Beacon of her saying we “owe a debt” to illegal immigrants for breaking the law and bringing their DREAMer children to America years ago. I can’t imagine why she’s so toxic politically. Oh, and yes — as you surely guessed by now, there’s a run on bump stocks across the country as gun owners fear they’ll soon be verboten.
Update: This is unexpected. But the NRA was in a jam this afternoon when it turned out that bump stocks were banned at the range in its own headquarters.
NRA: "Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations." pic.twitter.com/QiRFD9UesO
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) October 5, 2017
That’s all the cover Ryan and McConnell should need to push a bump-stock ban through, especially if Trump supports it as well, which seems likely. The group’s asking for national right to-carry reciprocity, presumably as the price in a deal to ban bump stocks. If Democrats balk at that, and they will, is the bump-stock ban off the table too?