Key GOP senators open to ‘bump stock’ ban
Top Senate Republicans said Wednesday they are open to considering legislation banning devices that were reportedly used to gun down scores of people in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
Bump stocks — also known as “slide fire” devices, which work by rapidly “bumping” the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon to boost the rate of fire — were reportedly used by Stephen Paddock to kill 58 people and wound more than 500 in Sunday’s Las Vegas massacre.
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No Republican has yet joined Democrats in endorsing a bill targeting bump stocks, but their comments suggest a potential shift in the party’s typically hard-line opposition to gun control measures.
Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, has dispatched his staff to research the use of bump stocks and said it would be “worthwhile” to have a hearing on the topic.
“It is ordinarily illegal to transform a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon, and it’s illegal to buy an automatic weapon unless you have a special license and undergo a special background check,” Cornyn, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview. “I’m not sure how these bump stocks fit into that scheme, but that’s certainly something that’s got my attention and I think we ought to get to the bottom of it.”
John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said he had talked to other GOP lawmakers about the narrow topic of bump stocks and said several were at least interested in finding out more about how the devices are used.
“I think it’s something we ought to look into,” Thune said. “I don’t know a lot about them, and I’m somebody who, I’d like to think, is fairly familiar with a lot of firearms and you know, the use of those. And that incident out there is something that I think we need to take a look at.”
Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he’d support a bill barring bump stocks from purchase.
“Automatic weapons are illegal. If that facilitates that, to me it would be subject to the same ban,” Johnson said. “If that actually gets on the Senate floor, I’d vote for it.”
Use of the accessories has become more widespread since the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in 2010 that it would not object to their sale.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and more than two dozen other Democrats unveiled a bill Wednesday to prohibit the sale of bump-stock devices.
“Bump stocks — which cost less than $200 — increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire from between 45 to 60 rounds per minute to between 400 to 800 rounds per minute. That’s the same rate of fire as automatic weapons,” Feinstein, a longtime gun-control advocate, told reporters. “The only reason to modify a gun is to kill as many people as possible in as short as time as possible.”
The sale of automatic weapons has long been tightly regulated, including by a 1986 law that banned individuals from owning or transferring such weapons. Kits to convert semi-automatic to automatic weapons are also banned.
A host of rank-and-file GOP senators expressed interest Wednesday in learning more about bump stocks.
“We’re looking at that too. I wasn’t familiar with them until this came up. So we’re looking at that and studying the issue,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “It’s a terrible tragedy, and we should look at it.”