Politics

Las Vegas Massacre Survivors Join Nevada Lawmakers to Call for Action

Titus, Cortez Masto, Kihuen and Rosen want Goodlatte to hold hearings on bump stocks, pass restrictions

Las Vegas massacre survivors Robert Gaafar, left, and Tia Christiansen, center, speak with Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., after a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday to call on House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte to hold a hearing and examine the use and legality of “bump stocks.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nevada Democratic lawmakers gathered at the House Triangle Wednesday with survivors of the Las Vegas massacre, who shared their stories of terror and the psychological impact.

The news conference took place on the one-month anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The lawmakers and survivors renewed calls for legislative action to prevent gun violence.

“It’s just like after Sandy Hook, just like after Orlando,” Rep. Dina Titus said. “A lot of talk. And then [Republicans] think they can wait us out. The news cycle will change, people will forget, and we’ll move on. We just can’t let that happen.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Reps. Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen also delivered remarks, along with two survivors.

Kihuen and Rosen sent a letter Wednesday to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia calling on him to hold a hearing on bump stock semiautomatic rifle attachments, the devices found on 12 guns in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room. Bump stocks enable shooters to fire up to 800 rounds per minute.

Goodlatte’s office has not responded to a request for comment.

[Search for Where All Members Stand on Bump Stocks]

Kihuen plans to deliver a series of one-minute speeches on the House floor over the next few months honoring each of the 58 people who died in the shooting.

Tia Christiansen, a special events producer from New York, was one room over from where gunman Stephen Paddock rained down bullets on concert-goers at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

She described Wednesday the pounding of bullets from behind the next wall after the first few bursts. She tried to convince herself that noise, louder than anything she’d ever heard, couldn’t possibly be gunfire.

“I’m just being dramatic,” she thought. “It must be some sort of plumbing issue.”

But the sound grew louder and persisted for nearly 90 minutes, Christiansen said, until a SWAT team rescued her from a prone position underneath her bed.

Since the shooting, she has coped with post-traumatic stress. She is acutely aware of every sound at night.

“I keep waiting for that sound to erupt,” she said. “I need to hear everything at night.”

Christiansen struggles to focus at work, too.

“It’s just not the same anymore,” she said.

Brooklyn entrepreneur Bobby Gaafar was at the concert when he heard pops. The stage lights shut off. He ducked behind a beer trailer but soon realized the shooter was not inside the crowd. Paddock was firing from the hotel directly facing Gaafar.

Gaafar broke for the exit while Paddock reloaded, and he remembers seeing police officers shouting commands as concert-goers fled. The police were running in the opposite direction.

Christiansen and Gaafar both challenged lawmakers who have objected to gun legislation introduced since the shooting to think back to their political origins and consider whether they have stayed true to them.

They both decried the gun lobby’s influence in Washington and asked lawmakers to pass a bill addressing bump stocks.

“I feel if all of us could share our stories,” Gaafar said, “hopefully we could kind of just push the ball a little bit more forward to actually have some real change, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers including Titus introduced a bill Tuesday that empowers the Bureau of Alcohol, Transportation, Firearms and Explosives to regulate bump stocks under the 1986 code clamping down on automatic weapons.

Two other bills introduced in the House this month sought to ban the devices outright. Those bills have not gained traction among Republicans who have mostly deferred to the ATF to regulate the devices.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said ATF already has the authority to regulate bump stocks, which would be “the smartest, quickest fix.”

But ATF has said it cannot legally issue bump stock regulations under existing law because bump stocks are not themselves automatic weapons, but attachments.

Titus’s bill aims to close that loophole.

“We’ve sent a letter to [Speaker Ryan] saying, ‘You said this is what you want, you said we could go this way — now let’s go,’” Titus said Wednesday. “I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting that measure. We can’t just stand in silence every time there’s a shooting.”

The speaker’s office declined to comment about the latest legislation.

Most Democrats in both chambers co-sponsored bills banning bump stocks within weeks of the Las Vegas shooting. The new bipartisan bill must undoubtedly be seen as a concession to Republican leadership on the devices, though lawmakers have indicated it represents action on gun laws that has not been taken for decades.

“This bill will not prevent all senseless gun deaths,” Rep. Dan Kildee said in a statement Tuesday. The Michigan Democrat is one of the bill’s original co-sponsors along with Titus and Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and Dave Trott, R-Mich.

Titus, Kildee, Fitzpatrick and Trott began the process of adding co-sponsors Wednesday.

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