During an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) compared military-caliber firearms to trucks, and the risk of mass shootings like the one that resulted in 59 deaths and more than 500 injuries in Las Vegas on Sunday to the risk of getting run down by a vehicle.
Asked whether he shares concerns Democrats have expressed about the legality of semi-automatic rifles in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Cole said that he is not in favor of banning those sorts of weapons — in part because thousands of Americans already own them anyway.
Referring to semi-automatics, Cole said “there’s millions of them in circulation, and when they are used appropriately they are not dangerous.”
The host replied by pointing out that the carnage in Vegas suggests guns of that sort are more deadly than Cole would have people believe. But Cole replied by pointing out that many things are dangerous.
“So are trucks driving into crowds,” Cole replied. “I don’t see [banning military-grade firearms] as the obvious answer and I don’t think — we have 300 million guns in circulation legally right now, you’re going to go back and reclaim them all?”
At another point, Cole — who has reportedly received more than $20,000 from the National Rifle Association — was pressed about whether reports that Paddock stockpiled 49 weapons alarms him. He replied that it doesn’t.
“I have friends that have that many weapons,” Cole said. “That’s not uncommon in my part of the country. I mean, I literally could tick off 10 names right now of people — they’re collectors, they’re sportsmen. This is something they do. They’re not a threat to anybody. Quite the opposite. They are some of the most solid citizens in my state.”
“I’m very fierce about the Second Amendment,” he added. “And again, I know most of the people that own these weapons — I mean, like 99.99 percent aren’t a threat to anybody.”
Cole did say that he’s open to exploring legislation to ban so-called “bump stocks” — a generally legal device Paddock allegedly used to enable his guns to fire like an automatic weapon. A group of Democratic senators are rolling out a bill to ban them.
Asked what legislative measures he thinks could prevent mass shootings if not gun control, Cole claimed he supports funding mental health programs to hopefully stop prospective shooters from opening fire in the first place. Cole, however, voted earlier this year in favor of heath care legislation that would’ve gutted Medicaid — the largest payer of mental health services in the country. He’s also supported removing the requirement that Medicaid cover mental health services.