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US gun lobby moves to head off gun control fight in Congress

A bump stock device, (left) that fits on a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing speed, making it similar to a fully automatic rifle, is shown next to a AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, (right) at a gun store on October 5, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by AFP)

The National Rifle Association (NRA), an American organization which advocates for gun rights, has called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to review whether "bump stocks" -- similar to the devices used in Sunday night's Las Vegas mass shooting -- comply with federal US law.

“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and Executive Director Chris Cox said in a joint statement issued on Thursday. ATF is a federal law enforcement organization within the United States Department of Justice.

The NRA move comes four days after a heavily armed gunman killed 59 and injured more than 500 people at a music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the United States.

In Nevada, authorities don’t outlaw automatic weapons. They don’t require people to have licenses for their guns or register their guns.

The shooter, Stephen Paddock, purchased 33 automatic weapons in the last year. Police found a total of 47 guns in the hotel room and house of 64-year-old, who rained down a barrage of bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel towards an open-air concert.

At least one of the rifles found in the hotel suite was outfitted with a “bump stock,” a legal attachment that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire at the same rate as a fully automatic firearm.

The influential gun lobby often stifles any legislation that is designed to put restrictions on automatic weapons. Officials working with the NRA have told Republican members of Congress and President Donald Trump administration officials they would oppose any hastily cobbled together legislation.

The NRA and its allies are seeking to avoid the discussion in Congress of controversial issues such as universal background checks on gun sales, a ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The Trump administration is “open to” reviewing its policy on bump stocks, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee said during a White House briefing on Thursday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Photo by AFP) 

“We’re certainly open to that moving forward,” Sanders said. “We want to be part of that conversation as it takes place in the coming days and weeks.”

President Trump has been an outspoken ally to the gun lobby both as a candidate and president. In April, he told the National Rifle Association convention that they had a "true friend and champion in the White House."

More than 100,000 people are shot each year in the US at a total cost of $45 billion, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs hours after the shooting in Las Vegas.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, found that more than 100,000 Americans were shot each year from 2006 to 2014, either as part of an assault, accidentally or while attempting to kill themselves.

While visiting survivors and doctors at a trauma center in Las Vegas on Wednesday, a reporter asked Trump about gun violence in the United States.

“We're not going to talk about that today. We won't talk about that,” said Trump, who is against gun control laws.  

Trump’s 2016 election campaign was heavily funded by the NRA. In response, the billionaire had pledged to protect the American gun owners' right to keep and bear arms, assuring them that they now have a “true friend” in the White House.

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