Some key Republicans are showing interest in a narrowly written, Democratic gun-control bill to ban “bump stock” rifle attachments that enable rapid firing.
The bill offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, responds to revelations that some of the weapons Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock used to commit the worst mass shooting in U.S. modern history Sunday were apparently outfitted — legally — with bump stock devices.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., originally thought bump stocks were illegal. When a reporter told him that they are currently legal, he responded: “I’d look at (Feinstein’s bill), for sure.”
“You can’t buy a chain-fed machine gun in the United States today," he said. "There’s a reason for that, and I’d want to make sure that nobody has access to that, if that’s the law of the land."
A gap in current law allows shooters with semi-automatic weapons to accelerate the rate of fire by attaching bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories. The bump stock automatically forces the trigger back against the shooter's finger after each shot.
“Some have said we shouldn’t do this now,” Feinstein said. “Now is not the time. When is the time going to be there? There is no better way to honor the 59 people who were slaughtered than to take action to prevent this from happening again.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was “premature” to discuss “legislative solutions, if there are any,” when asked whether he could support a ban on equipment to convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., shut down talk of limiting bump stocks quickly.
“I’m a second-amendment man I’m not for any gun control,” Shelby said.
But Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of Senate leadership, said some of his colleagues are “at least interested” in learning more about “that narrow issue.”
“I am somebody who I’d like to think is fairly familiar with a lot of firearms and you know the use of those in that incident out there is something I think we need to take a look at,” Thune said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters Wednesday that trigger accelerators "is something that I think bears looking into, and I talked to Chairman Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I believe that once the investigation is complete and we learn all aspects of what contributed to this event, then we should have a hearing and look into it."
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday he had never heard of a bump stock, even though he owns many guns.
“So certainly if (the bill) made it over here I’d be willing to look at it in a different light but I don’t know enough,” he said. “All I know was what was reported.”
The bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. Feinstein said the "short and plain spoken language" of the bill will let everyone know what is banned, "no matter how fancy the device is."
Feinstein introduced the legislation with more than 20 Democratic co-sponsors. She said she is working to win Republican support for the bill and plans to reach out to President Trump, who was in Las Vegas Wednesday to console victims of the tragedy.
Trump, a Second Amendment proponent, has avoided questions about gun-control legislation, saying on Tuesday, "We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes on."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called on Trump to provide leadership and back the bill.
“This device has no purpose but to convert an already deadly weapon into a completely lethal carnage force multiplier,” he said. “It should be banned.”
During her news conference, Feinstein noted that she's no stranger to "what guns can do." When she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978, she discovered the body of the city's first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, in his office after he was shot by a disgruntled former city employee.
Still, she said she never thought this country would see something like the Las Vegas shooting, where a country music concert was turned “into a battlefield.”
Feinstein said her daughter planned to go to the concert with neighbors, but then both families ultimately decided against it. They planned to stay at the Mandalay Bay hotel, where the shooter carried out his attack on concert-goers below.
“That’s how close it came to me,” Feinstein said. “I just thank God. It’s one of those misses in life. It could happen to any one of us.”
Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen