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Hearing On Banning Bump Stocks Held On Beacon Hill03:23Download

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In this Oct. 4, 2017, photo, a device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
In this Oct. 4, 2017, photo, a device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

Since the mass shooting in Las Vegas less than three weeks ago, lawmakers on Beacon Hill have fast-tracked an attempt to ban bump stocks — the devices believed to have been used by the gunman to make his semiautomatic weapon fire more like a rapid-fire automatic machine gun.

A State House hearing was held on the ban Wednesday. But when the meeting was gaveled to order, and Chairman Sen. Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) asked if there was anyone who wanted to testify, no one came forward.

So Moore and his Senate colleagues sat and eventually began to comment on the two versions now attached to a budget bill making its way through the Legislature: the Senate version, which identifies the bump stocks by name, and a House version that some say could be open to a broader interpretation.

Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) says he's heard from several gun owners, some opposed to any ban on principle, but said others are open to restrictions.

"A great many of them said, look, bump stocks are not even safe to shoot because they reduce the accuracy of the weapon and make it unstable, and the weapons they are attached to are really not designed for rapid fire, and so they overheat and bad things can happen as a result," said Brownsberger.

As the senators were waiting, Jim Wallace, the executive director of the Gun Owners' Action League of Massachusetts, entered the hearing room, but opted not to testify.

"It's a done deal. I mean I've already said what I had to say to all the legislators so there's really no sense in me testifying about something that's already happened," Wallace told reporters after the hearing concluded.

While unhappy with the process, he says he and his members favor the Senate version of the ban.

"While a lot of our members still don't support it, at least it is very concise as to what it does, and the average person can actually read it and pretty much understand what it's supposed to do and what it's not supposed to do," Wallace added, saying the House language could be interpreted to mean someone who cleans their gun so it fires more efficiently might be subject to imprisonment.

At the hearing, state Rep. Donald Berthiaume (R-Spencer) finally came forward and briefly testified that he too favors the Senate language, explaining why he was just one of three House members to vote no on the House version.

Moore then gaveled the hearing to a close. He says he's disappointed others didn't come to testify.

"I would have liked to have had more input from the public on bump stocks, trigger cranks," said Moore. "But, we've got to deal with the information that we have. I think credit should be given to both the House and the Senate for acting rapidly, on this issue. I just hope we can come to some sort of resolution."

The chairs of the House and Senate Ways and Means committees have been working to reach a compromise, in the hopes of avoiding the need for a conference committee. They hope to have the budget bill with some sort of a bump stock ban on the governor's desk by the end of the month. Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated that he will likely sign it.

This segment aired on October 18, 2017.

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Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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