The door is slightly ajar and a sliver of light is shining through.
In the days following the (most recent) worst in American history mass murder, several Republican lawmakers, including our own Rep. Mike Bost, said bump stocks should be outlawed.
Bump stocks are a device affixed to a semi-automatic weapon. The device uses the gun’s recoil to pull the trigger rapidly, essentially allowing the gun to function as fully automatic. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, had 12 guns outfitted with bump stocks in his Mandalay Bay room.
With the aid of the devices he was able to spray — at the least — hundreds of bullets at the crowd gathered below the hotel for a concert. In addition, it is estimated he fired another 200 rounds at a hotel security guard who approached his room.
By Thursday, the National Rifle Association issued a stunning statement.
"The NRA believes that devices intended to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," said Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the group's top two leaders.
After that statement, several more Republican legislators took advantage of the cover provided by the NRA and voiced their support for limiting, or eliminating, the availability of bump stocks. Among those Republicans was Bost.
We commend Bost for taking this stand. Although endorsed by the NRA and a number of conservative legislators, support for limiting the devices is not universal among conservatives or gun lobbyists.
But, the importance of the NRA’s statement, the importance of Bost’s endorsement, is not that bump stocks could eventually be banned. It’s the fact that the NRA and members of the conservative caucus have admitted that gun violence is a problem in the United States.
Granted, this is a tiny opening. The NRA’s statement says nothing about guns, simply an accessory for a gun. But, it is a beginning. It is hope.
No problem is solved by ignoring it. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. America needs to have this conversation. And, it needs to have it now.
And, no, this is not about banning guns. We believe owning guns is an inherent right in this country.
The intent of the Second Amendment has been the subject of intense debate for the last century. In 2008, the Supreme Court in District of Columbia vs. Heller ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed protect the right of individuals to own firearms.
That is the law of the land and it should be respected.
But, our rights are not absolute. There are restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. In fact, the Firearm Owners Protection Act, passed in 1986, prohibits the possession of fully automatic weapons.
Despite some voices to the contrary, now is the time for America to have a frank discussion on gun violence. Yes, the death of 58 innocent citizens continues to weigh heavily on the American psyche.
But, discomfort is no reason to ignore the difficult task. America struggled with the passage of Civil Rights laws. The recent airing of Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War reminded us of the deep rifts the conflict created at home.
Despite the momentary discomfort, America emerged a better nation.
Talking is the first step. And, even that isn’t easy.
Americans, no matter what side of the fence they’re on, need to put aside their bumper stickers, forget the internet memes, and talk frankly about what can be done to make this nation better, safer and at the same time protect the Second Amendment rights of all citizens — whether that is creating graduated classes of licensing for larger caliber firearms, mandating more extensive background checks or requiring training before large caliber weapons can be purchased.
There is a lot to talk about. Ignoring the issue solves nothing.