Washington senators backing bill to close automatic weapons loophole

By Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer

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Washington U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray signed on as co-sponsors to a bill that closes an automatic weapon loophole Wednesday.

The bill, known as the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. It is aimed at preventing semi-automatic weapons from being modified to resemble fully-automatic weapons such as those used in the recent Las Vegas shooting which killed 58 and injured 527. Fully automatic weapons have been illegal in the United States for the last 30 years.

Gov. Jay Inslee urged Congress to ban such devices Tuesday.

“I’m done waiting for the ‘right time’ to talk about it,” Inslee said in a press release. “The ‘can’t talk about it now’ crowd is killing us.”

The bill would ban bump-stocks and other devices that can increase the firing rate of a semi-automatic weapon to something more like a fully-automatic machine gun.

A bump stock covers the trigger opening, which allows the gun to fire at a pace resembling that of an automatic weapon as the recoil “bumps” the trigger while firing. This device was found on 12 rifles in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room.

“It’s past time this Congress pursued common sense policies to address the rampant gun violence in this country, and this legislation is a good place to start,” Murray said in a press release. “Like so many people I’ve heard from over the past few days, I refuse to believe the politics are just too tough to do whatever is possible to prevent another senseless, horrific mass shooting like we just saw in Las Vegas.”

Cantwell said the loophole must be closed to prevent “the sale of devices to convert guns into unlawful automatic weapons meant for war zones.”

A standard semi-automatic rifle has a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. Modified rifles can fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

Legitimate accessories to increase the rate of fire, like those used by hunters, would be exempt under the bill. Devices possessed by law enforcement and the government would also be exempt.

Murray and Cantwell are joined by 24 co-sponsors, including Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley and Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said she will “consider any idea to stop senseless acts of violence like Las Vegas as long as they’re consistent with the Constitution, effective and affordable.”

As to this bill, Herrera Beutler — who has voted only in favor of gun rights — said if it’s introduced in the House, she will read it.