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The Bipartisan Response On Bump Stocks


So has the immovable political stalemate around guns moved? There's a modern political ritual after a major mass shooting. Democrats call for tightening gun regulations. Republicans adamantly oppose them. But this time, both parties may have found a small area of agreement. To talk about this and the week ahead in politics, NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, joins me now.

Good morning, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what's the gun measure here that's gaining some momentum, and is it really gaining momentum?

LIASSON: Well, this might be the exception that proves the rule, which, as you said, is that nothing tends to happen legislatively after these kinds of horrific mass shootings. But now a kind of bipartisan consensus is actually forming to either outlaw or regulate certain gun accessories. These are the so-called bump stocks, which the Las Vegas shooter used to transform his semi-automatic weapon into something much closer to a machine gun. And regulation of these devices - when in the past, it's been pushed by lawmakers, like Senator Dianne Feinstein - haven't gotten anywhere. But now you have several Republicans saying they're open to discussing restricting these. You have the NRA saying they are also open to tighter restrictions, though not banning them.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. What has the White House said about this? Are they behind this, too?

LIASSON: You know, that's interesting. President Trump, who has been more than willing to give his opinion on anything without hesitation, has been uncharacteristically quiet and noncommittal about this bump stock issue. The White House says he's open to hearing a discussion about it, but it is tricky terrain for the president because no organization has supported him more wholeheartedly than the NRA, which has been called the militant soul of the Republican Party. So the NRA has tremendous lobbying muscle, grassroots strength. And I don't think the White House wants to get out ahead of the NRA on this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How quickly could we see action if, indeed, they are going to act on this?

LIASSON: Well, if they want to act, they can act pretty quickly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's turn to foreign policy. President Trump is expected to make an announcement this week about the Iran nuclear deal. He has until October 15 to certify that Iran is complying with the agreement. It has to be done every 90 days. And the president's done it twice already reluctantly. What should we expect this time?

LIASSON: Well, he's expected to decertify the deal. The president has called this deal the worst in American history. He said it's an embarrassment. He promised to get rid of it, but everyone on his national security team says that Iran is actually in compliance. So if the president stands up and says he's not certifying the deal - the deal isn't in the interest of the U.S. - that doesn't necessarily kill the deal. That would only happen if Congress re-imposes the sanctions that were lifted on Iran when the deal was made.

And it's not clear that Congress wants to do that anytime soon. If they did, that would mean the U.S. was backing out and Iran would be free to go forward and make a nuclear weapon very quickly. One thing Congress might do that would help the president is to take away the requirement that he has to recertify the deal every 90 days - in other words, say whether Iran is in compliance or not. And that has been a real irritant for him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. The Iran nuclear deal, though, is a multilateral agreement involving other world powers. What do those countries want?

LIASSON: None of the other countries who are privy to the deal want to renegotiate - not China, not Russia, not Iran, not the European countries. They are hoping to convince President Trump to work out a side deal or an addendum to deal with Iran's behavior in the Middle East and all the other issues that Trump is unhappy with that are not part of the nuclear deal. Now, if they wanted to negotiate an additional deal, the United States would have to make concessions to Iran, and it's not clear what those would be. This is really a perfect example of President Trump coming up against the limits of being the president of the United States. Not everything can be done unilaterally or bilaterally. He's faced the challenges of getting legislation through Congress, and now he's coming up against how hard it is to work on the international stage because so many agreements are multilateral.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.