Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder is joining fellow Republicans in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shootings in calling for a ban on a device used to increase the firing power of semi-automatic rifles.
Yoder, who represents the state’s 3rd District, said in a statement Thursday that he “will support measures to regulate or ban” so-called bump stocks, conversion kits that turn semi-automatic rifles into weapons capable of firing 400 to 800 rounds per minute.
Law enforcement officers found several such devices in the Las Vegas hotel room where earlier this week gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers, killing 58 and wounding nearly 500.
As the details of the shooting in Las Vegas have become clearer, it's evident that action must be taken with regard to bump stocks: pic.twitter.com/QWCYDVsPPt
— Rep. Kevin Yoder (@RepKevinYoder) October 5, 2017
When Yoder was asked about his position on gun control during an August town-hall meeting in Olathe, he said he didn’t believe imposing additional restrictions would be an effective way to stem what appears to be a rising tide of gun violence.
“I don’t think the answer is restricting rights for law-abiding Americans,” Yoder said, noting that Washington, D.C., is probably “the biggest gun-free zone” in America.
“You’re not allowed to carry a gun in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “And there’s areas there where you might want to, but you’re not allowed to protect yourself. That’s not a country I want to live in.”
Momentum appears to be growing among lawmakers for a ban on bump stocks. The National Rifle Association on Thursday announced it was open to regulations on the devices, and several other Republicans in Congress have said they would support the ban.
Democrats competing for the right to challenge Yoder, who is seeking a fifth term in a Kansas district that Hillary Clinton carried over Donald Trump in last year’s presidential race, were quick to criticize him for a politically motivated about-face.
“It’s no coincidence that Paul Ryan calls a press conference, and then Kevin comes out against bump stocks,” said Tom Niermann, one of several candidates competing for the Democratic nomination. “He is feigning leadership whenever it’s politically expedient. But where was he yesterday or the day before on the issue?”
Democrat Andrea Ramsey charged Yoder’s co-sponsorship of legislation that would have eased restrictions on purchasing “silencers” is a more accurate indication of his position.
“Despite numerous gun-related massacres in recent years, the fact that Kevin Yoder became an original co-sponsor of the ‘silencer bill’ shows he values the corporate gun lobby and its PAC dollars over protecting innocent lives,” Ramsey said.
Yoder is one of 43 original co-sponsors of House Resolution 367, a bill backed by the NRA that in addition to easing restrictions on the sale of silencers would make it harder for regulators to classify some types of ammunition as “armor-piercing.”
Numerous media outlets reported this week that House leaders have decided against bringing the bill to a vote.
A recent report in Politico listed Yoder among the top 10 House recipients of contributions from gun rights groups in the 2016 election cycle.
If elected, Ramsey said she would “put an end to loopholes in our gun laws” while also protecting the rights “guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.”
Kansas 4th District Congressman Ron Estes, a Wichita Republican, stopped short of supporting a ban on bump stocks, which he said were made legal by a guidance issued by “President Obama’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”
“I believe that modifications that simulate automatic fire should be scrutinized to ensure they don’t violate the Firearm Owners Protection Act,” Estes said in an email to KCUR.
Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.