Tragically, Americans are getting to know the life stories of each of the country music concertgoers who were massacred Sunday night by a madman high up in a hotel, who sprayed rapid-fire death down on a Las Vegas festival with what sounded like machine guns, which are supposed to be illegal.
But maddeningly, America has not yet realized that this worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history was enabled by actions (and unforgivable inactions!) of 60 Americans 2,000 miles to the east.
So, we must also focus on the names of those other Americans, who unintentionally became the gunman’s ultimate enablers. They are 45 Republican and 15 Democratic U.S. senators who voted in 2013 to defeat a comprehensive gun control bill that would have prevented the Las Vegas massacre, Stephen Paddock, from legally turning his assault weapons into super-firing de facto machine guns. The group created a legal loophole and never went back to close it.
So let me start introducing you to the senators (some have since left the U.S. Senate) who ended up becoming a mass killer’s unwitting enablers. Lest you feel overwhelmed, we’ll present them alphabetically, in several small batches. Among the senators who defeated the 2013 gun bill, creating a legal loophole they forgot about, were:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
That bill, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was widely known as an assault weapons ban. But it also would have outlawed the modification devices called “bump stocks” that Paddock used to create his de facto machine guns.
Back in 2013, America’s gun culture knew all about bump stocks. A company named Slide Fire began manufacturing the modification. “Guns and Ammo” extolled its rapid fire virtues in a website video. And The Associated Press explained how it could convert a belt-fed rifle into a veritable machine gun, legally. It used the gun’s natural recoil force to bump the trigger into machine-gun speed, firing up to 800 rounds a minute.
That apparently didn’t alarm our select group of senators:
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
In 2013, Feinstein’s office released a summary of her bill, explaining it would specifically ban “dangerous aftermarket modifications and workarounds,” including, “Bump or slide fire stocks, which are modified stocks that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire at rates similar to fully automatic machine guns.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) Sen. Rob Portman(R-Ohio), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
It is inconceivable all the senators who opposed the assault ban really thought it was fine to allow individuals to retrofit firearms to create a de facto machine gun. They knew actual machine guns are banned because they are just machines for mass killing. Yet, they were so afraid of opposing the National Rifle Association that they were content to walk away after creating a loophole only a gun lobbyist could love.
On Wednesday, Feinstein tried yet again. She introduced a new bill to simply ban bump stock modification devices. “The only reason to modify a gun is to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible,” she told reporters.
But wait. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican whose title is “leader,” has already taken a position — he’s against taking any position. “It’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any,” he said.
Get the hook.
Martin Schram is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.