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Las Vegas mass shooting delays GOP efforts to expand gun rights

WASHINGTON — Congress went on rewind this week, replaying the gun control arguments raised after every mass shooting in recent years. But congressional sources said Tuesday that this week's mass shooting in Las Vegas already sparked one legislative change.

The tragedy appears to have stalled Republicans — such as Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence — who want to further expand the rights of gun owners in America, they said.

The House quietly delayed its plans to consider this week  legislation that would make it easier for people to buy silencers for their weapons while also easing restrictions on armor-piercing ammunition and the transport of guns over state lines.

“That bill is not scheduled now; I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told reporters Tuesday. “Right now we’re focused on passing our budget.”

Prospects also look increasingly bleak for Collins' Second Amendment Guarantee Act, or SAGA, which would overturn current state and local gun laws that are more stringent than federal regulations while blocking states and localities from enacting any such laws in the future.

Collins proposal to overturn SAFE Act faces long legislative road

House sources said they don't see that bill — which is aimed at overturning the SAFE Act, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's strict gun control law — moving forward anytime soon. And even if it does, it faces a roadblock in the Senate.

"Democrats have the votes to block Collins' bill in the Senate and it’s dead on arrival," one Senate aide said.

Further proof that the Las Vegas shooting had a political effect came in the careful words pro-gun Republicans chose in responding to it.

Collins refused to answer detailed questions about the prospects for his bill, his stance on loosening restrictions on silencers and the overall political impact of the Las Vegas shooting.

Instead, he issued a statement that said: “I, along with every American, am shocked by the devastating tragedy in Las Vegas and continue to keep the victims and their families in my thoughts and prayers. It is sad to see that after just 36 hours, some are now trying to politicize this terrible tragedy when many questions we all have remain unanswered, and probably will be for some time."

Rejecting "knee-jerk reactions," Collins added: "My colleagues in Congress and I will continue to support legislation that keeps Americans safe while protecting their Second Amendment rights."

Similarly, Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican, refused to be pinned down when asked if he favored the now-delayed proposal to make silencers more accessible and otherwise loosen federal gun control regulations.

"Those are provisions that are changing, I believe, so it's not appropriate to weigh in on that until we see the final text," he said on his weekly conference call with reporters.

Reed stressed, though, that he remains a strong supporter of gun rights and that he thinks Congress should address the mental health issues that often underlie massacres rather than limiting access to the weapons people use to kill dozens of people at a time.

"I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment, I stand by the Second Amendment and I will fight for the Second Amendment as we go forward," Reed said.

Meantime, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, called on President Trump to come out against what Schumer called "the absurd law about silencers." Schumer also called on Trump to bring together congressional leaders to start working on gun safety issues.

"He should tell members of his party that it’s time to work addressing this epidemic that costs the lives of more than 30,000 Americans a year," Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Asked about gun control before leaving Washington for a day trip to Puerto Rico, Trump answered cryptically.

“We will be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” the president said.

Democrats certainly hope that's the case.

Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, took to the House floor to say that Congress should consider legislation addressing the availability of assault weapons.

"Assault weapons are designed to kill people and to kill lots of people quickly," Higgins said. "Their availability made the massacres in Las Vegas, Newtown and Orlando possible."

And when asked about the Las Vegas shooting at an appearance in Albany on Monday, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand said Congress should consider banning assault weapons, expanding background checks and cracking down on gun trafficking.

But Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, doesn't expect that to happen.

"It's so outrageous," she said. "We have no willingness by Congress to do anything in the face of these horrific gun crimes, crimes happening over and over again."

News staff reporter Dan Clark contributed to this report.

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