After Scalise shooting, GOP braces for politics of gun debate

Voting to make it easier to buy noise suppressors for firearms seemed like a win for Republicans.

But when the National Rifle Association wasn’t present at a congressional hearing on the issuewhich has been at the top of its legislative agenda for years — it signaled the GOP might be growing aware of the new optics surrounding the gun debate.

Indeed, what would have been an ugly partisan fight under ordinary circumstances has been made even uglier by recent events.

The saga began on June 14, when the NRA federal affairs director was scheduled to testify at a hearing on the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement, or SHARE Act, a legislative package containing various land conservation programs and provisions aimed at supporting hunters, fishers, anglers and other outdoorsmen.

The Hearing Protection Act — the suppressor bill — is part of this package.

That same day, a gunman opened fire on the Republican baseball team practice in Alexandria, Va., injuring law enforcement personnel and congressmen, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands, along with every other panel, postponed activity as Capitol Hill confronted the tragedy.

On Sept. 12, the subcommittee’s hearing was back on. This time, however, a representative from the NRA was not among the list of witnesses.

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