Beacon Hill Dem Files Bill to Plug State Law Bump Stock Gun “Loophole”

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By Matt Murphy

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, OCT. 4, 2017….The device that may have been used by the Las Vegas shooter to turn a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute remains legal to obtain in Massachusetts, and should be banned, according to one state lawmaker.

Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who played a role in crafting the state’s 2014 gun violence prevention bill, filed legislation on Wednesday that would ban what are known as bump stocks in Massachusetts.

Federal authorities have said 12 bump stocks were found in the Mandalay Bay hotel room from which the shooter took aim at a crowd attending a country music festival over the weekend, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 more.

“Massachusetts gun laws are among the best in the nation and as a result we have one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country…,” Linsky told the News Service, noting that the state competes with only Hawaii for that distinction. “They’re not perfect, however. And the Las Vegas shooting was, to my knowledge, the first mass shooting where a so-called bump stock was used and it highlighted the loophole.”

Linsky’s bill, which is awaiting assignment to a committee, also proposes to ban high-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds. Current state law grandfathered high-capacity magazines produced before 1994, but Linsky said the lack of serial numbers on ammunition magazines makes enforcement impossible.

Bump stocks are devices that can be used to modify semi-automatic weapons in order to get them to act as automatic weapons. The stock uses the recoil action of the firearm to slide the weapon back and forth allowing it to fire rapidly, but escapes the state’s ban on automatic weapons because the user’s finger technically remains on the trigger, pulling to initiate each shot.

“I’ve yet to find any legitimate reason for someone to own a bump stock or any other device that turns semi-automatic rifles into automatic rifles. Frankly, I can’t come up with a legitimate reason,” Linsky said.

Linsky said he notified House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Northeastern University criminologist Jack McDevitt about his intention to file the bill on Wednesday. DeLeo has a meeting planned on Thursday with McDevitt, who advised the speaker during the crafting of the 2014 law, to discuss the professor’s review of that law and its effectiveness and possible weaknesses.

The gun violence prevention bill signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2014 focused on improving background checks and addressing the ability of people with mental illness to obtain a firearm license.

Asked whether he thought there was an appetite to take up his bill, Linsky said, “I would hope so. I know, as I’ve been speaking to colleagues today, we’re all very moved by the tragedy, obviously, in Las Vegas and very few people were aware of the so-called bump stock and similar technology.”

Gun Owners Action League Executive Director Jim Wallace said even he was unfamiliar with bump stocks, and had been speaking with members to learn if they had any experience with the devices.

“I’m really not that educated on them,” Wallace said. “I’ve never seen one up close or ever looked them up online.”

He did, however, raise concerns with the idea of banning magazines that may already be in circulation. “I don’t know how you accomplish that. That turns into confiscation and I don’t know if you want to go down that road,” Wallace said.

Wallace called the Las Vegas shooting a “horrific scene,” and noted his organization’s role in helping lawmakers craft the last gun violence prevention and safety bill that GOAL endorsed.

Wallace also said GOAL’s Northborough office had be closed on Tuesday after staff received numerous harassing phone calls and someone ran into the office and confronted an employee, saying, “I just wanted to see what the face of evil looks like.”

“The sad thing is we get caught up the generalization and the stereotypes and people who don’t know us don’t realize the hard work we’ve done in Massachusetts,” Wallace said.

Northborough police confirmed that they responded to GOAL headquarters on Tuesday, but could not immediately provide a copy of the incident report.