A number of prominent Republican lawmakers are considering legislation that would outlaw the “bump stock” device used by the Las Vegas gunman to enable his semi-automatic rifle to fire like an automatic weapon.
Conservative Republicans, historically averse to limitations on Second Amendment rights, appear to have softened on the issue in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
“I own a lot of guns, and as a hunter and sportsman, I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told The New York Times Wednesday, adding, “It seems like it’s an obvious area we ought to explore and see if it’s something Congress needs to act on.”
While much about the shooting remains unclear, authorities have determined that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, employed a bump stock device to allow his semi-automatic AR-15 rifle to fire like an automatic weapon, presenting a clear and specific legislative target for lawmakers.
Cornyn said the issue of banning bump stocks was worth exploring and said he asked Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee Chairman, to convene a hearing on the issue and other questions that might arise from the Las Vegas investigation.
Cornyn is joined by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, all of whom said they would entertain legislation outlawing bump stocks.
“We certainly want to learn more details on what occurred in Las Vegas,” Rubio said, “and if there are vulnerabilities in federal law that we should be addressing to prevent such attacks in the future, we would always be open to that.”
A number of prominent House members, including the head of the Freedom Caucus, GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina are open to the potential legislation. GOP Rep. Bill Flores of Texas went further, explicitly advocating a ban on the devices.
“I think they should be banned,” Mr. Flores told The Hill. “There’s no reason for a typical gun owner to own anything that converts a semiautomatic to something that behaves like an automatic.”
Bump stocks, which retail for roughly $100, are a retrofit that replace a rifle’s traditional stock with a spring loaded one. The modification harnesses the natural recoil of the gun to “bump” it back and forth between the shoulder and the stationary trigger finger, increasing the rate of fire to well beyond what can be accomplished with solitary pulls of the trigger, without jeopardizing the gun’s legal status as a semi-automatic. (RELATED: The Vegas Shooter Had Two Bump Stocks In His Room, Here’s What That Means)
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California advanced legislation that would have outlawed bump stocks as part of a broader automatic weapons ban in 2013 but failed to pass the bill. She is now drafting legislation focused more narrowly on banning bump stocks, on the advice of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who believes the political will now exists to pass the specific restriction with bipartisan support.
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