U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to introduce the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, the sale of which have been significantly curtailed and strictly regulated for more than 30 years.
“Fully automatic machine guns have been strictly regulated since 1986 under President Reagan. This bill will fix an egregious loophole that was exploited by the Las Vegas shooter to cause unspeakable mayhem, killing dozens and injuring hundreds of innocent civilians,” said Sen. Warner. “This measure sends the message that we can honor and respect the second amendment while also ensuring people don’t skirt our laws to turn legally obtained firearms into weapons of war.”
“We continue to suffer horrific mass shootings like the one we saw in Las Vegas this week — in Virginia we know the unbearable pain they cause — but Congress has remained unwilling to do anything to help stop them from happening again and again,” Kaine said. “This bill would help curb deadly gun violence by closing a dangerous loophole that allows someone to make a semi-automatic weapon even more dangerous. We need to take long overdue action on gun safety and quickly pass this bill that can save lives.”
Under the National Firearms Act, the sale, manufacture, and transfer of automatic weapons are illegal. However, bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories are able to be attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire. Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. A bump stock, or other similar device increases the semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.
The bill also makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. Legitimate accessories used by hunters would be exempt. The bill also contains exceptions for lawful possession of these devices by law enforcement and the government.
Senators joining Warner, Kaine, and Feinstein include Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Kaine, who was Governor of Virginia during the Virginia Tech mass shooting, and Warner have long supported improving mental health policy and passing commonsense measures to curb gun violence, including requiring background record checks prior to gun purchases and improving the number and accuracy of records submitted to the national background check system.