Capitol Alert

Feinstein moves to close automatic-rifles loophole in wake of Las Vegas massacre

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday introduced legislation to close what she calls an automatic weapons loophole that allows gun owners to convert semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire automatic machines.

The gunman who opened fire on thousands of people in Las Vegas Sunday night, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 others, had 32 guns in his hotel room and a dozen were outfitted with a “bump stock” device, converting the semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons.

Possession or transfer of machine guns by civilians has been illegal in the U.S. since 1986, except those previously made and registered.

“Despite this, individuals are able to purchase bump fire stocks for less than $200 and easily convert a semi-automatic weapon into a firearm that can shoot between 400 and 800 rounds per minute and inflict absolute carnage,” Feinstein said in a statement. “A ban on bump fire stocks was included in my 2013 assault weapons bill, and I’m looking at how to best proceed with legislation to finally close this loophole … it should be our highest priority.”

She introduced legislation, called the “Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act,” Wednesday morning.

“We must stop this now,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The only reason to fire so many rounds so fast is to kill large numbers of people. No one should be able to easily and cheaply modify legal weapons into what are essentially machine guns.”

Feinstein, who in 1994 authored the federal Assault Weapons Ban, with a 10-year horizon, is among the high-profile California Democrats who have called for tighter gun control laws following Sunday’s mass shooting. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom drove Proposition 63 last year strengthening the state’s gun control measures.

“If the Republican leadership of Congress and this president continue with their moral and intellectual abandon, California has and must continue to chart the path of rationality,” Newsom said in a statement. “I urge statehouses across the nation to look closely at the work we’ve accomplished here, through the Legislature and the ballot box, and act.”

California law bans assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (the National Rifle Association is challenging the assault weapons ban in court). Adding a “bump stock” to a semi-automatic rifle would qualify it as a machine gun, making it illegal in California, according to the state Department of Justice.

Craig DeLuz, a spokesman for the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Association, a gun rights group, declined to weigh in on the legality of the device, but characterized any legislation proposed in the wake of a shooting as “opportunistic” and suggested Feinstein is politically motivated.

“Maybe before we start coming up with a solution, we ought to give investigators time to get all the information needed to determine if there is a problem,” DeLuz said in an interview. “The senator wants to ban all semi-automatic rifles. We’re opposed to banning the most-commonly owned firearms in the entire country.”

Feinstein in 2013 proposed legislation to, among other things, ban the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of all semi-automatic rifles with a detachable magazine, and other “military features” like a telescope or grenade launcher.

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