Sen. Dianne Feinstein is launching another push to combat gun violence, this time targeting accessories that make it possible to convert a semi-automatic gun to fire rounds rapidly like an automatic weapon.
The California Democrat said her bill, which had 26 Democratic co-sponsors as of Wednesday morning, would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump fire stocks — also known simply as “bump stocks” — as well as trigger cranks and other accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.
Feinstein, who has had a long history of advocating for stricter gun control, also revealed Wednesday that her own daughter was planning to attend the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed at least 58 and more than 500 were wounded earlier this week.
But, Feinstein said, “for one reason or another,” her daughter and neighbors decided not to make the trip from San Francisco.
“That’s how close it came to me,” she said at a news conference introducing her bill. “I just thank God. That’s just, it’s one of those misses in life. Could happen to any one of us.”
Jill Snyder, special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said Tuesday that the gunman in Las Vegas rigged 12 semi-automatic rifles with bump stocks.
Feinstein was successful in getting an assault weapons ban passed in 1994, but it expired in 2004 and was not renewed by Congress. After the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, Feinstein again attempted to pass an assault weapons ban — which included a ban on bump stocks — but the legislation did not pass.
“I don’t know what to do except to continue to fight, because reason doesn’t control this situation,” Feinstein said.
To use the bump stock device, a shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand, according to the ATF. It is not regulated as a firearm under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.
So far, Republican leaders have said it’s too early to talk about any legislative moves after the violence in Las Vegas. “The investigation has not even been completed, and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions if there are any,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.
On the specific topic of bump stocks, Republican senators have given mixed feedback. While the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, said Wednesday that “it’s worth having a conversation” about bump stocks, others were opposed or skeptical.
“I’m a Second Amendment man. I’m not for any gun control. None,” said Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama when asked if he’d be open to any regulations or bans on the devices.
“I am very skeptical about legislation that attempts to ban features and particular guns,” said Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. “I haven’t looked at it, but I’m skeptical.”
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said he wasn’t familiar with bump stocks and planned to do more research. “I am going to get someone to present to me in my office what a bump stock device is. I apologize, but I do not know.”
Some Democrats were also still trying to learn more about the device.
“The first time I heard of bump stocks was yesterday,” said Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat who’s up for re-election in Montana next year. “We’ll find out what the hell they are. We’ll get hold of some folks in the industry and find out what they do, and we’ll look at Dianne’s bill and make a decision in due time.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who joined Feinstein at the press event announcing the legislation, invoked the sounds of the gunfire now heard widely on television and across social media, saying “the searing noise of that staccato firing should be a wakeup call to this Congress” and “ought to be echoing in our minds.”
Feinstein, who was present during the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, said she planned to reach out to President Donald Trump about her bill and start working with Republicans on the legislation.
“I know what guns can do,” she said. “This is taking it into war.”