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GOP senator blocks Democratic bill to ban bump stocks after Supreme Court ruling

Biden urges Congress to ban bump stocks
Biden urges Congress to ban bump stocks after Supreme Court ruling 02:32

Washington — A Republican senator blocked a Democratic-led attempt to pass legislation Tuesday that would have restored a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, an accessory that enables semi-automatic weapons to shoot at a very rapid pace, after last week's Supreme Court decision striking down the ban.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, requested that his bill banning bump stocks be brought up for a vote under unanimous consent, a procedure in which a measure passes so long as no lawmaker objects. Sen. Pete Ricketts, a Nebraska Republican, blocked the measure by objecting.

Heinrich said Tuesday there's "no legitimate use for a bump stock." 

"A bump stock-equipped semi-automatic rifle is a machine gun and it should be banned, just like machine guns have been banned for nearly 100 years now," he said on the Senate floor. "Even still, within the Supreme Court's majority's ruling, they gave Congress, they gave us, clear direction on the only way for us to protect Americans from these deadly devices. Congress needs to act." 

In rising to object, Ricketts said it was "another day in the Democrat summer of show votes" and argued that the bill "is about banning as many firearm accessories as possible." 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called the bump stock ban "common sense" and said Senate Republicans supported banning bump stocks when the Trump administration sought to outlaw the devices and criticized those who are now against it. 

"Are my Republican colleagues serious? Do they really think banning bump stocks is some kind of stunt?" he said. "Again, they should tell that to the people of Nevada who have dead relatives because of bump stocks."

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, signed on as a co-sponsor of the bump stock legislation.

The Supreme Court's conservative justices found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives overstepped its authority in prohibiting the devices, concluding that a semi-automatic rifle outfitted with a bump stock is not the same as a machine gun because the trigger still must be released and reengaged to fire each shot. Machine guns, which are banned under federal law, can fire continuously by a single pull of the trigger. 

The ban, which went into effect in 2019, came after a gunman, who used semi-automatic rifles equipped with the accessories, killed 60 people at a Las Vegas music festival in one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. 

"A bump stock does not convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. 

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said the Las Vegas massacre strengthened the case for changing the law to ban bump stocks. 

"There is a simple remedy for the disparate treatment of bump stocks and machine guns," he wrote, saying that "Congress can amend the law." 

President Biden called on Congress to pass a ban in wake of the Supreme Court's decision, saying he would sign it into law. 

"Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation," Mr. Biden said in a statement Friday.

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