WASHINGTON -- In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, House Republicans continue to quietly advocate legislation that would make it easier to buy suppressors to muffle gun noise.
The effort contrasts with the GOP's more public stance.
Republican leaders are making a point of seeking to ban devices that helped the Las Vegas shooter convert his firearms into automatic shooting machines. Gunman Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded hundreds Oct. 1 when he fired on concertgoers from his hotel room.
The Republicans' dual-track strategy shows how the party is struggling to meet the demands of its pro-gun rights base on the political right while battling a public relations nightmare from the left.
In interviews with McClatchy, House Republican lawmakers and leadership aides confirmed they were still hopeful they could hold a floor vote on the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement, or SHARE, Act, a major legislative package primarily intended to reauthorize conservation and wildlife programs that benefit outdoorsmen.
Passing the measure would be a win for most Republicans as well as for some Democrats who represent hunter-friendly districts. But advancing the package with the provision to loosen restrictions on purchasing noise suppressors for firearms, known as the Hearing Protection Act, might not be great for political optics. Democrats are clamoring for more gun control laws, not less.
Republicans are sensitive to the mood. At a leadership news conference Wednesday, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., advocated for new rules on so-called "bump stocks." He and others are hoping, though, that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives handles the matter; otherwise, Congress could be faced with having to take another weighty political vote.
On its face, the easy political option would be to stay the course on banning bump stocks and move the SHARE Act forward without the suppressor provision.
So far, that doesn't appear to be the strategy.
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who shepherded the SHARE Act through his panel in September, said it was "premature" to assume the bill could not pass with the Hearing Protect Act attached.