Sen. Chuck Grassley won’t say if he would support legislation banning bump stocks — devices that dramatically accelerate a semi-automatic weapon’s rate of fire — but the Iowa Republican says it would make sense.
Grassley has scheduled a Judiciary Committee hearing on firearms accessories for Tuesday and expects bump stocks, the device infamously used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to shoot more than 500 people, to be part of the discussion.
Grassley also predicted that the Air Force’s failure to send the name of Sutherland Springs mass shooter Devin Kelly to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System will come up at the hearing, too.
The database, known as NICS, lists those prohibited from buying guns because of crimes or other circumstances.
Kelly received a “bad conduct” discharge from the Air Force after being court-martialed for assaulting his wife and injuring his stepson. His discharge, conviction and year in jail should have been reported to NICS and could have made it more difficult to legally buy a gun.
“This is something that will come up in the hearing, for sure,” Grassley said during a conference call Wednesday with reporters. “This is very embarrassing to them. They’re studying what went wrong. I presume that if they don’t take action, we will.”
Legislation to ban bump stocks has been introduced in Congress. Nine senators, including Iowa Republican Joni Ernst and Judiciary Committee members Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, have asked the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau of the Department of Justice to review its Obama administration rule allowing bump stocks. The devices allow a semi-automatic rifle to be shot faster than a person can pull the trigger.
Inhofe suggested that bump stocks should be illegal if they are used to simulate automatic weapons, which are regulated. Grassley seemed to agree.
“I don’t understand why it would be right for ATF to issue such a regulation when submachines have been outlawed since the 1920s or ’30s,” he said, adding that 1986 legislation made automatic weapons illegal.
“It seems to me that common sense would say they ought to restrict it, I mean, do away with the rule,” Grassley said.
Grassley warned that the hearing may have to be rescheduled because the Department of Justice may not be prepared.
He also noted that in 2013, after the Sandy Hook, Conn., school shooting, his legislation to require states and local governments to submit the names of people who should be barred from buying guns to NICS got 57 votes — three votes shy of the 60 needed to send it to the Senate floor for a vote.