California's Democratic Senator Feinstein Wants Ban on Device That Accelerates Rifle Fire

"Mr. and Mrs. America, you have to stand up, you have to say enough is enough"

As she introduced legislation to ban "bump stocks" like those used by the Las Vegas shooter, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said her own daughter had planned to attend the Route 91 musical festival where concertgoers were slaughtered this week.

But the California Democrat said her daughter's plans changed and she didn't go. 

"They were going to stay at that hotel. That's how close it came to me," Feinstein said Wednesday, as she unveiled the bill that would ban devices that can effectively convert legal semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons. 

While unmodified semi-automatic rifles can usually fire between 45 and 60 rounds in a minute, adding one of the devices can bring that rate up to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute, according to Feinstein's office.

"Mr. and Mrs. America, you have to stand up, you have to say enough is enough," she pleaded.

The bill has 26 co-sponsors, all Democrats, and it faces an uncertain future.

But, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, said Feinstein's bill deserves a hearing.

"I think that's a legitimate question, if somebody can essentially convert a semi-automatic weapon by buying one of these and utilizing it and cause the kind of mayhem and mass casualties that we saw in Las Vegas, that's something of obvious concern that we ought to explore," Cornyn said.

"I own a lot of guns, and as a hunter and sportsman I think that's our right as Americans, but I don't understand the use of this bump stock, and that's another reason to have a hearing," he said.

Feinstein, who became mayor of San Francisco early in her career after her predecessor was gunned down, authored an assault weapons ban that was in effect for 10 years before expiring in 2004. She said she had been considering trying to reintroduce that more sweeping legislation, as she's done unsuccessfully in the past, but that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged her to go with a narrower bill that might be likelier to draw support.

Even so, asked earlier this week about "bump stocks" and whether they should be legal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was not an appropriate time to be discussing legislation.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., made similar comments Wednesday in a radio interview on WISN in Milwaukee.

"What I don't think you want your government to do is to lurch toward reactions before even having all the facts," Ryan said. "Bad people are going to do bad things."

That's not good enough, says Congressman Mike Thompson of Novato, Calif.

"Everything that we’ve brought forward doesn’t cut the mustard with the Republican majority," he said. "They won’t give us a hearing, they won’t give us a vote. If you don’t like what we’re bringing forward, you bring something forward."

Thompson is pushing for the approval of two gun-control bills: one calls for background checks for anyone who buys a firearm commercially, while the other asks that Ryan establish a committee that could focus on gun violence prevention.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the GOP's failure to act "is about money" from the National Rifle Association.

The party refuses to entertain Democratic demands to expand background checks for gun purchases and tighten restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, but also shelved its own House bill that would have loosened access to gun silencers.

Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was grievously wounded in a 2011 shooting, urged lawmakers to "be bold, be courageous. The nation is counting on you."

Yet there were signs that Democrats were ratcheting back their response compared with the past. Last year, after a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, House Democrats commandeered the floor of the House for a sit-in that lasted into the night to protest GOP inaction on the issue. The tactic drew headlines but did not produce legislative results, and there appeared to be no plans for a repeat.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate Democrat who has co-sponsored background check legislation in the past with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, said he planned to meet with Toomey to discuss revisiting their bill.

But Manchin said he would not reintroduce it without significant GOP support, which he said could only happen if President Donald Trump got involved.

He said he would want the support of at least 10 or so Republicans, and "that ain't going to happen unless the president gives his stamp of approval." Trump visited Las Vegas on Wednesday but said "We're not going to talk about that today" when asked about gun legislation.

Manchin is up for re-election next year in a state Trump won overwhelmingly but denied that personal political considerations played a role in his reluctance. The Senate has twice rejected the Manchin-Toomey background check bill, and Manchin said he doesn't want that to happen again.

NBC Bay Area's Pete Suratos and Erica Werner and Matthew Daly of the Associated Press contributed.

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