CARSON CITY – A state ban on bump stocks, mirroring a federal regulation slated to take effect later this month, hit the state Senate floor on Tuesday – a standalone proposal that could also be included in a more comprehensive gun control bill coming later this session.
The overlapping legislative efforts are meant to leave no conceivable gap in a push by gun-control advocates to eliminate the firearm accessory blamed for the high rate of casualties in the Route 91 festival mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, where 58 people died and more than 800 were injured.
Attached to a semi-automatic weapon, a bump stock uses the weapon’s recoil energy to accelerate its rate of fire. The Route 91 shooter used a dozen of the devices to fire more than 1,100 rounds at concertgoers in approximately 10 minutes.
Senate Bill 261, sponsored by Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, and nine other Democratic senators, would ban manufacture, sale, possession and use of any device that “materially increases the rate of fire” of the semiautomatic weapon, making violations a category-D felony. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary committee for hearings.
The Trump administration moved administratively to ban bump stocks in the aftermath of the October 1 shooting. A final rule change was approved by the Justice Department in December and is scheduled to go into effect March 26. A federal judge upheld the ban on Feb. 25 in a legal challenge from gun-rights groups, but that case is being appealed, and Congress has yet to take up action on a federal ban.
Cancela said the bill “mirrors what the federal law does in state law” and would also likely be part of a wide-ranging gun safety bill expected to come from first-term Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, a survivor of the Route 91 shooting.
The measure introduced Tuesday likely sets up another partisan gun-control debate in the Legislature, pitting majority Democrats from more populous areas who want tougher gun laws against minority Republicans from rural areas who back gun rights.
Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, called the proposal “a waste of our time” given the pending federal ban. He called bump stocks “a meaningless thing that you’ll never be able to ban because your belt loop is a bump stock, a rubber band is a bump stock.”
Democrats in February pushed through a law requiring background checks for private gun sales starting in 2020. The measure, signed promptly by Gov. Steve Sisolak, corrected a defect that prevented a 2016 statewide initiative on background checks from taking effect.
Review-Journal staff writer Colton Lochhead contributed to this report.