U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced Wednesday she would introduce legislation to ban a type of device, known as a "bump stock," used by the man who fired on concertgoers Sunday in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and then himself and leaving hundreds injured.
Authorities said 12 of the rifles found in Stephen Paddock’s hotel room were equipped with the attachment that allows a user to accelerate the rate of fire on a semi-automatic rifle, essentially mimicking the action of an automatic rifle.
Feinstein, a prominent gun control supporter, said the bump stocks exploit a loophole in existing law, which already bans fully automatic weapons, and that the loophole needs to be closed.
“No one should be able to easily and cheaply modify legal weapons into what are essentially machine guns," she said during a press conference introducing the legislation.
Feinstein was joined by more than two dozen other Democrats, who co-sponsored the bill. The measure serves as the first legislation introduced by Democrats following the mass shooting.
A day earlier, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called his Republican colleagues cowards for offering “thoughts and prayers” in response to the shooting, instead of immediately calling for more gun control legislation.
"[Y]our cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers," Democrat Chris Murphy tweeted. "None of this ends unless we do something to stop it."
In both houses of Congress, many Democrats are attempting to use the shooting as a way to force an immediate dialogue on gun control legislation, such as expanding background checks for gun purchasers and scrutinizing personal firearms transfers.
“If ISIS had just killed 59 people, every Republican and the president of the United States would be saying we need to take action now," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
The National Rifle Association did not comment immediately on the carnage in Las Vegas, but other organizations representing gun owners maintain that the mass shooting in no way invalidates Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms. The NRA is America’s leading association defending the rights of citizens to own and carry firearms. Americans are specifically afforded the right to bear arms by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican who was nearly killed earlier this year when a supporter of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign opened fire on a GOP softball practice, said the Las Vegas shooting only “fortified” his support for Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
“When there’s a tragedy like this, the first thing we should be thinking about is praying for the people who were injured and doing whatever we can to help them, to help law enforcement. We shouldn’t first be thinking of promoting our political agenda,” he told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum on Tuesday.
Representative Chris Collins of New York also criticized the Democratic push for gun control following the tragedy in Las Vegas, calling the timing “despicable.”
“The Democrats are going to keep politicizing every tragedy that occurs – I think that’s despicable on their part,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims here. This is not the time to automatically reach into the desk drawer and pull [out] gun control [bills].”
Scalise went through multiple surgeries and is still walking with crutches after James T. Hodgkinson shot him, along with several others, with a semi-automatic rifle during a Republican practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game on June 14.
Following the shooting in Las Vegas, Scalise asked people to donate blood to help the victims.
“In the face of unspeakable evil, our whole nation must respond with countless acts of kindness, warmth and generosity," he said in a statement.