In the spring, Republicans and the National Rifle Association looked like they’d win a battle in Congress to make buying noise suppressors for guns easier. Then a gunman opened fire on the Republican baseball team practice. That, and the mass shooting in Las Vegas, may make pro-gun votes in Congress less likely.
Voting to make it easier to buy noise suppressors for firearms seemed like a win for Republicans. When the National Rifle Association wasn’t present at a congressional hearing on the issue — which has been at the top of its legislative agenda for years — it signaled the GOP might be growing aware of the new optics surrounding the gun debate, McClatchy Newspapers reports. What would have been an ugly partisan fight under ordinary circumstances has been made even uglier by recent events, including the Las Vegas concert shooting. On June 14, the NRA federal affairs director was scheduled to testify at a hearing on the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement, or SHARE Act, a legislative package containing various land conservation programs and provisions aimed at supporting hunters, fishers, anglers and other outdoorsmen. The Hearing Protection Act — the suppressor bill — is part of this package.
That same day, a gunman opened fire on the Republican baseball team practice in Alexandria, Va., injuring law enforcement personnel and congressmen, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The hearing was postponed. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands, along with every other panel, postponed activity as Capitol Hill confronted the tragedy. When the hearing was rescheduled for Sept. 12, the NRA did not testify. The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, said it seemed obvious to him that Republicans realized the dynamics had changed since Scalise and others were shot. The bill might be on its way to becoming even more unpalatable for Democrats, particularly after the Las Vegas shooting; Democrats will be sure to argue the tragedy underscores the need to strengthen background checks before loosening existing gun regulations.