Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway has blamed the Obama administration for failing to regulate “bump stocks,” a little-known device that may have helped the Las Vegas mass shooter kill more people.
Ms Conway defended President Donald Trump in the wake of the shooting, arguing that former President Barack Obama was to blame for the commercial availability of bump stocks.
"I did note ... it was President Obama's ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in 2010 that decided not to regulate this device," she said. "That should be part of the conversation and part of the facts that you put before your viewers."
Police say bump stocks – small pieces of plastic or metal that allow a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic weapon – helped shooter Stephen Paddock fire off an unusually high number of rounds into a crowded concert on Sunday. The shooter killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500, making it the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Officials say Paddock had as many as 12 bump stocks, and more than 20 weapons, in his hotel room at the time.
Former President Barack Obama’s ATF approved the sale of bump stocks in 2010, concluding that they did not violate a federal ban on fully automatic weapons.
Rick Vasquez, a former ATF official who signed off on the recommendation, described the device as “a goofy, little doodad”.
“It’s for those guys who want to look like super ninja when they’re out on the range — they’re the people my peer group makes fun of,” Mr Vasquez, a former Marine, told the Washington Post.
But bump stocks – and their ability to amplify the effects of mass shootings – have become a focal point in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre.
Three House Republicans have sent a letter to the ATF, asking the agency to reevaluate the legality of the device. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced a bill banning the sale and possession of bump stocks and other, similar devices.
But Ms Conway was sceptical of these efforts, noting that many legislators neglect the issue of gun control until a mass shooting occurs. Mr Obama passed more than 20 executive orders on gun control in the wake of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, but failed to pass a proposed ban on assault weapons.
“I know the high horse cavalry loves to run in, thumping their chests after a tragedy, but let’s step back and have a thoughtful conversation about everything that is at play here,” she said. “The more information all of us can learn about everything that happened in Las Vegas, the better.”