Republicans block bill to outlaw bump stocks for rifles after Supreme Court lifts Trump-era ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans blocked bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would have outlawed bump stocks after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on the rapid-fire gun accessory used in the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

Democrats tried to force a voice vote on the bill to ban bump stocks, a tactic often used by both parties when they know that they don’t have the votes to pass legislation but want to bring an issue to the Senate floor. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, would ban the sale of the devices, similar to the rule issued by President Donald Trump’s administration after a gunman in Las Vegas attacked a country music festival in 2017 with semiautomatic rifles equipped with the accessories.

The gunman killed 58 people and wounded more than 850 among the crowd of 22,000, firing more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd in 11 minutes.

“I refuse to stand idly by and wait for the next mass shooting,” Heinrich said as he called for a vote on the Senate floor. “Bump stocks serve no legitimate purpose.”

Nebraska Sen. Pete Ricketts objected for Republicans, blocking an immediate vote on the bill. He called the legislation a “gun grabbing overreach” that could be interpreted to include other gun accessories beyond bump stocks.

“This bill will not pass,” Ricketts said. “It won't pass because enough people in this building still believe in the Constitution, and the Constitution affords Americans the right to own a firearm.”

The 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas found the Justice Department was wrong to declare that bump stocks transformed semiautomatic rifles into illegal machine guns because, he wrote, each trigger depression in rapid succession still only releases one shot.

The effort to force the legislation is part of a larger election-year push by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold votes on issues that are priorities for Democrats and where they believe they have a political advantage, even if they know the bills won’t pass. Republicans have blocked legislation to protect access to contraception and in vitro fertility treatments in recent weeks, arguing that the Democrats are only bringing up the issues for political reasons. And Schumer announced this week that the Senate will vote in July on legislation that would restore the nationwide right to have an abortion after the Supreme Court overturned it almost two years ago.

The votes have put Republicans in a tricky position. In the case of bump stocks, many Republicans supported the ban when Trump issued it. But several said this week that they would oppose the legislation to reinstate it, arguing that the vote is another election-year stunt by Democrats, not a serious attempt to pass bipartisan legislation.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican who worked with Democrats on bipartisan gun legislation two years ago, said that if Schumer were serious about banning bump stocks, “he’d be calling people into a room who have worked on bipartisan bills,” but instead “it’s a political exercise, which is a shame.”

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, criticized Schumer for a “summer of show votes” and for bringing up bills that are “clearly designed to fail.”

Schumer countered on the floor that “it's not enough for Republicans to roll their eyes and dismiss this bump stock vote as a 'show vote.' Tell that to the families who lost loved ones.”

The messaging votes come as the Senate’s other business has come to a halt, with bipartisan negotiations on legislation such as rail safety, farm programs, taxes and prescription drugs stalled during a contentious election year.

Schumer has said he may continue to bring up the bills for repeat votes, along with a separate bipartisan immigration compromise that Republicans voted down earlier this year.

“Republicans don’t want to talk about it, but they are going to have to vote on it,” Schumer said.


Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.