WASHINGTON — Citing the Las Vegas Strip shooting, a bipartisan group of Western states’ senators, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, filed a bill Thursday to ban bump stocks, which increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic rifles to nearly that of fully automatic weapons.
President Donald Trump has directed the Justice Department to finish a review of bump stocks and write regulations that would ban the use of the devices like machine guns.
The senators applauded that move, but said they would take it a step further.
“I am encouraged by the president’s directive to the Department of Justice to regulate these devices, but a temporary regulatory fix is no substitute for permanent law,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
Flake, Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., filed the bill as the Senate prepares to tackle gun control measures following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
The shooter in the school shooting did not use a bump stock or a trigger crank on an AR-15 rifle used to carry out the killing of students and adults.
But Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., had 12 bump stocks on 24 semi-automatic rifles he had in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. Paddock used the devices to fire into the crowd of concertgoers on Oct. 1.
The shooting left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
“The deadliest shooting in modern American history was due in large part to bump stocks, a device designed to inflict the most number of casualties in the shortest amount of time,” Cortez Masto said.
She said public places have become “war zones because it is legal to simply walk into a store and buy a device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a full-on machine gun.”
“Congress must act immediately and ban bump stocks as we work to help save lives and prevent senseless gun violence,” said Cortez Masto, a former federal prosecutor and Nevada attorney general.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, also favors banning bump stocks. Sandoval was in Washington last week as chairman of the National Governors Association and met with Trump on gun control measures and school safety.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has ruled twice that it lacked the authority to regulate bump stock devices. ATF officials are conducting another review, which includes a public comment period.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., a former FBI agent, have filed a bill in the House that would give legal authority to the ATF to regulate bump stocks and other devices. The bill would change legislation that outlawed machine guns.
Republican leaders in the House did not include that legislative language in a bill passed last year that strengthened reporting requirements to the FBI database used by gun retailers to perform background checks.
GOP leaders also expanded concealed carry regulations requiring all states to accept permits issued by other states. It ordered the Justice Department to study bump stocks.
The Senate has yet to take up gun-control measures or the Fix NICS bill, which tightens reporting requirements to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, filed the Fix NICS bill after the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas. Failure by the Air Force to report domestic abuse incidents allowed the shooter to legally purchase weapons that were used in the shooting.
The bill has numerous co-sponsors, including Cortez Masto and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
But Democrats say the Fix NICS bill falls short of gun control measures to prevent mass shootings.
Democrats also have filed legislation that would restore the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. The bill would ban the sale of assault-style weapons that have been used in the most recent mass shootings.
The bill is opposed by Republicans and the nation’s gun lobby, which says banning the sale of the weapons is an infringement of the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.