Nevada senators blast GOP for blocking ban on bump stocks

Gun Rights
Bump Stocks

Steve Helber / AP

In this March 15, 2019, photo, Ryan Liskey displays a bump stock on top of his AR-15 at his home in Harrisonburg, Va.

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Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., speaks during a Communities In Schools news conference at JD Smith Middle School Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Communities in Schools of Nevada announced it has been awarded a five-year $11,852,258 grant from the United States Department of Education.

Nevada’s U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto didn’t hide her displeasure on Tuesday after bipartisan legislation that would have outlawed the bump stock gun accessory was blocked in the Senate.

“It’s shocking to me that my colleagues aren’t willing to move forward on such an important bill,” Cortez Masto, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “My husband and I are gun owners, but no one needs a bump stock. They’re dangerous, incredibly deadly devices that have no place on our streets.”

Residents in her home state are, unfortunately, too familiar with the rapid-fire gun accessory.

Bump stocks were used in the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Strip allowing a gunman to fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition in just 10 minutes into a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers in the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

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Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., speaks during the Nevada State Democratic Party’s biennial convention at the MGM Grand Conference Center Saturday, May 18, 2024. Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno listens at left.

“We lost Nevadans that day,” Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., told senators Tuesday. “Sixty people were killed in the largest mass shooting in American history; families were torn apart. For us, the carnage created by bump stocks is very real.”

The Senate took up a bump stock ban Tuesday after the Supreme Court last week reversed a Trump-era ban on the accessory that was instituted in response to the Las Vegas shooting. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., sought “unanimous consent” — or the agreement of all 100 senators — to pass a bump stock ban.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Pete Ricketts, however, balked, and his objection blocked the legislation. Ricketts, whose family owns baseball’s Chicago Cubs, called the proposal a “gun-grabbing overreach” that could be interpreted to include other gun accessories beyond bump stocks.

The unanimous consent request was a “back door” for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to ban most semiautomatic weapons, he said.

“This bill will not pass,” Ricketts said. “It won’t pass because enough people in this building still believe in the Constitution, and the Constitution affords Americans the right to own a firearm.”

Ricketts, who has a 92% rating from the National Rifle Association, in a 2018 speech told the group’s national convention in Dallas that the NRA was “vilified and unfairly attacked” after mass shootings across the United States — including those in Las Vegas and Parkland, Fla.

“When we see events, tragedies, like in Parkland, we all know that no parent should have to endure that, no child should be endangered at their school. Those are tragedies,” said Ricketts, who at the time was Nebraska’s governor. “But the other side is using that to try to take away our rights by focusing on the wrong thing.”

A bump stock is an attachment for semiautomatic rifles that replaces the standard stock of a gun, where the user rests their shoulder for the gun’s impact.

Bump stocks allow the firearm to utilize its own recoil to shift back and forth, continuously pushing the trigger into the user’s finger to allow for faster firing.

Bump stocks can drastically increase the possible rate of fire of a rifle, allowing between 400-800 rounds to be fired per minute. That firing rate is comparable to an M-16, the United States military’s most-used machine gun, with a firing rate of 700-900 rounds per minute.

The 6-3 majority opinion, written by Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas found the Justice Department was wrong to declare that bump stocks transformed semiautomatic rifles into illegal machine guns because, he wrote, each trigger depression in rapid succession still only releases one shot.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Trump-era bump stock ban was a brazen reversal of a common-sense measure to help prevent the kind of mass violence we saw on 1 October in Las Vegas, which remains the deadliest shooting in American history,” Rosen said in a statement Tuesday.

The effort to force the legislation is part of a larger election-year push by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold votes on issues that are priorities for Democrats and where they believe they have a political advantage, even if they know the bills won’t pass. Republicans have blocked legislation to protect access to contraception and in vitro fertility treatments in recent weeks, arguing that the Democrats are only bringing up the issues for political reasons. And Schumer announced this week that the Senate would vote in July on legislation that would restore the nationwide right to have an abortion after the Supreme Court overturned it almost two years ago.

The votes have put Republicans in a tricky position. In the case of bump stocks, many Republicans supported the ban when then-President Donald Trump issued it. But several Republicans said this week that they would oppose the legislation to reinstate it, arguing that the Senate vote was another election-year stunt by Democrats, not a serious attempt to pass bipartisan legislation.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican who worked with Democrats on bipartisan gun legislation two years ago, said that if Schumer were serious about banning bump stocks, “he’d be calling people into a room who have worked on bipartisan bills,” but instead “it’s a political exercise, which is a shame.”

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, criticized Schumer for a “summer of show votes” and for bringing up bills that are “clearly designed to fail.”

But for Cortez Masto and Rosen, this wasn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It’s blocked common sense legislation that will save lives, they said.

Cortez Masto is an original cosponsor of the Banning Unlawful Machinegun Parts (BUMP) Act to enshrine a ban on bump stocks into federal law. The legislation was introduced in 2018 prior to the Trump administration’s enactment of the ban on bump stocks. U.S. Rep Dina Titus, D-Nev., introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.

“In 10 minutes, he murdered 58 people; 867 total people were wounded,” Cortez Masto said on the floor. “Half of those people, 411, were wounded by gunshots, including two who later died as a result of their injuries. Think about that — almost 470 people hit by bullets in under 10 minutes.”

She continued, “Now, I want you to imagine the terror all those families must have felt. Unfortunately, I don’t have to imagine it, because I experienced it. My niece was at that concert, and thankfully she made it home safe — but so many didn’t.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[email protected] / 702-990-8926 / @a_y_denrunnels

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