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Feinstein Remarks on Bump Stocks, Background Checks

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered opening remarks at a hearing to consider bump stocks and improving background checks:

“Two months ago, we witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in our country’s history in Las Vegas. It was on October 1st. A sole gunman sprayed over 1,100 rounds into a crowd of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of a hotel room in a matter of minutes. The attack left 58 people dead and over 500 injured. 

Witnesses described the scene as a “war zone.” Think about that—a “war zone”—at a music concert.  This was conducted by one 64-year-old man with a vast arsenal of weapons.

How did he exact such devastation within minutes? He had at least, I understand, 23 guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and at least 12 of something called a “bump stock.”

Bump stocks allow a gunman with a semi-automatic weapon to mimic automatic gunfire. With a bump stock device attached, semiautomatic weapons can fire up to 700 rounds per minute.

I’d like to ask you to turn your attention to the screens to a video clip that shows how these devices work.

Machine guns and guns with automatic fire are already banned under federal law. Bump stocks are not.

The National Firearms Act was enacted in 1934 to strictly regulate machine guns. It was passed in response to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, when Thompson submachine guns—“Tommy guns”—were used in a Chicago mass shooting by mobster gang members.

The original law heavily regulated machine guns but later the law was updated in 1986 to ban all future automatic weapons from private possession.

There’s no reason to believe that this ban should not also be applied to bump-stock devices and other similar devices.

While some have argued that the ATF can ban or regulate these devices under existing law, the ATF has repeatedly stated that bump stocks cannot be regulated because they do not fall within the legal definition of a machine gun.

We introduced a straightforward bill to fix this—to treat bump stocks and other devices like machine guns.

Specifically, the bill bans, quote, the “import, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possess[ion] [. . .] of a trigger crank, a bump device […] or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire from a semiautomatic rifle.” That’s what the bill actually says. 

Several witnesses today, including Police Chief Tom Manger, the president of the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association, will discuss how bump-stock devices put us all at risk.

The witnesses today will also discuss the despicable attack that occurred a month after Las Vegas, at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

There, a convicted domestic abuser, who was able to pass an FBI background check and obtain four guns, brutally murdered 26 people, with victims ranging from 18 months old to 77 years old. I understand one was a pregnant woman with a boy—child. It was an act of pure evil.

We were all devastated and infuriated to find out that the FBI background check missed the gunman. He should have never been allowed to get those guns.

The Air Force failed to provide the FBI background check system with records indicating he assaulted his wife and infant step-child while in the Air Force.

And I must say that I had a very fine call from the secretary of the Air Force yesterday. And she has taken, I think, very effective action, which I think she’ll outline later this morning.  So this is all unacceptable. I understand that we need to look forward to the future. I also understand that it was almost five years ago to the day that America witnessed the tragic shooting of elementary children and their teachers in Newton, Connecticut.

And Mr. Chairman, I just want to take this opportunity before I end to acknowledge the fact that there are large numbers of people here in this audience who have been affected by gun violence. So I would like to ask that they stand.

And I would like to recognize the representatives from the Brady Campaign, the Newtown Action Alliance, Moms Demand Action, Gabby Giffords’ and Mark Kelly’s group, the Police Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. If those representatives are here, if you would stand please, we’d like to give you a round of applause and thank you for attending today’s hearing.”