At this point, it feels like tale as old as time: Man takes up gun and slaughters dozens of elementary school children in Newtown or clubgoers in Orlando or concert attendees in Las Vegas. Social media is flooded with messages of concern, with thoughts and prayers, with surety — at least from some — that this time, things will be different.
But Vegas isn’t different.
It’s been a little more than three weeks since Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music festival, shooting out the window of a Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others.
It was the worst mass shooting in modern American history, and it doesn’t even matter.
Paddock had more than a dozen guns in his hotel room, several of which he had modified with bump stocks, a device that can increase the firing rate of a semi-automatic weapon from between 45 and 60 rounds per minute up to 800 rounds per minute.
It took less than three days for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to round up more than 30 co-sponsors for a bill that would ban the modifications, and Republican Senate leadership called for hearings on the legislation. The House version of the bill quickly garnered a bipartisan crew of 20 co-sponsors, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans.
Even the National Rifle Association expressed some openness to looking into bump stock restrictions (though they called for loosening restrictions on carrying across state lines in the same statement).
NRA: “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” pic.twitter.com/Yd29FaAdHr
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) October 5, 2017
But on Tuesday, barely three weeks since nearly five dozen innocent people were murdered while attending a concert, The Daily Beast reported that legislation to ban bump stocks is effectively dead, with congressional aides and gun control advocates saying they see no path forward for the bump stock ban.
Aides told The Daily Beast that there has been no indication the House Judiciary Committee is going to consider the bill, and in the Senate, Feinstein has failed to attract even a single Republican co-sponsor.
A bump stock ban — or, at the very least, a revised version of the bill restricting bump stock sales that may have come out of committee — should have been a layup. It’s the lowest legislative bar Congress has set for itself in the wake of the the spade of deadly mass shootings the country’s seen over the last decade. It had soft support from the godforsaken NRA, even.
One of the central problems is that mass shootings like Vegas don’t actually change how Americans think about guns and gun violence.
A Gallup poll tracking attitudes about gun control found that, following mass shootings, support for stricter gun control measures tends to spike, but the increased support eventually fades. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Friday found that the Vegas shooting did little to change how Americans feel about gun laws.
A majority of people favor tighter gun laws, but that’s been true for several years. In the AP poll, 61 percent of people said they favor tougher gun laws, while 27 percent said they wanted them to remain unchanged, and 11 percent said they want them to be looser.
That’s roughly the same as an AP poll done in July of 2016.
As CNN’s Chris Cillizza pointed out Tuesday morning, interest in bump stocks, tracked by Google trends, has also faltered. Interest peaked on October 5, the day after Feinstein introduced her bill to ban the modifications. But now, less than three weeks later, people are roughly as interested in bump stocks as they were before the shooting.
And on some level, you almost can’t blame them. The unfolding Weinstein scandal has taken center stage, and Democratic leaders have hardly said a word about bump stocks in weeks. Republicans — wallets fat with that sweet, sweet NRA money — have been quick to move on to tax reform, while the president has been focused on feuding with Gold Star families and the junior senator from Tennessee.
As for the NRA, after getting glowing coverage for their nothingburger statement on the proposed bump stock ban, they’ve quickly gone back to attempting to incite a race war. In a video released Friday afternoon, seemingly referring to the recent criticism of Trump’s attitudes toward recovery in Puerto Rico and his words to a Gold Star widow, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch claimed that Americans were “witnesses to the most ruthless attack on a president and the people who voted for him and the free system that allowed it to happen in American history.”
The ad is underscored by ominous music, and, while footage from riots plays, Loesch says, “These saboteurs, slashing away with their leaks and sneers, their phony accusations and gagging sanctimony, drive their daggers through the heart of our future. No. Their fate will be failure, and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires.”
— NRATV (@NRATV) October 20, 2017
The video doesn’t mention guns once.
The morning after the Vegas shooting, the NRA Political Victory Fund postponed an ad buy in support of Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie that was scheduled to start running the next day, October 3. They postponed the ads until October 10, effectively betting it would take Americans just eight days to move on from Vegas.
Looks like they were right.