The U.S. Senate's No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn, said on Wednesday that lawmakers should investigate "bump stock" accessories that turn some guns into rapid-fire weapons, after Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein called for Congress to ban the devices.
The spotlight fell on bump stocks after Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a country music festival on Sunday, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds in about 10 minutes.
Twelve of the 23 guns in his hotel room were fitted with bump stocks, officials said, allowing the guns to be fired almost as though they were automatic weapons.
Automatic weapons have been illegal in the United States for over 30 years but bump stock devices offer a way around that law.
"If somebody can essentially convert a semi-automatic to an automatic weapon by buying one of these and utilizing it, and cause the kind of mayhem and mass casualties that we saw in Las Vegas, that's something of obvious concern that we ought to explore," said Cornyn, the Senate majority whip and a conservative Texas gun owner who has opposed some restrictions on firearms in the past.
Stricter gun laws have been proposed after previous mass shootings, but most Republicans and some Democrats repeatedly have balked at what they see as infringements on the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Republicans hold the majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Feinstein said 26 senators were co-sponsoring her bill to ban the devices, all Democrats, but she also planned to approach Republicans.
Last year Cornyn and Feinstein tried to find common ground on legislation to keep suspected terrorists from buying firearms after a shooting in Orlando killed 49 people. However, the two senators made different proposals, and both were voted down by the Senate.
Some other Republicans, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, said they were willing to at least examine Feinstein's bill on bump stock devices.
"If it comes over from the Senate, I'm willing to look at whatever legislation they think might be prudent," said Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker)