December 06, 2017

Cortez Masto Testifies Before Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing to Ban Bump Stocks

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to highlight the need to ban bump stocks from being sold to the public. Following the Las Vegas shooting on October 1st, Cortez Masto shed light on the human cost of the existing bump stocks loophole, and called on members of the Judiciary Committee to effectively ban these deadly devices. Below are her opening remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, thank you for holding this hearing and for allowing me this opportunity to testify. Our subject today is difficult but it is also incredibly important. 

On October 1, 2017, my home town of Las Vegas experienced a tragedy. Fifty-eight innocent people were murdered and more than 500 were injured after a gunman rained down fire at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. This event now has the sad distinction of being the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

The human cost of this atrocious crime is incalculable. Hundreds of people lost loved ones, and those who survived must not only heal from physical wounds but cope with the mental scars.

As Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, you are in a unique position to take the first steps to end these senseless massacres. I ask the Senators of this committee to be brave and do what’s right for the victims and survivors of Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Sandy Hook, Aurora and the countless communities that want to see common sense reforms.

I will never forget the stories I heard walking through our hospitals and meeting with victims and our first responders. Entire emergency room and hallway floors stained with blood. A recovery room in one of our hospitals turned into a makeshift morgue. A victim’s phone ringing continuously with calls from her father who would soon learn she would never be coming home.

There is one life story cut short for each of the 58 people killed that night. We have come to learn their stories of sacrifice, courage, and love.

We have also learned the thousands of stories from those in the crowd who did not hesitate to help others. They are our true heroes. Stories like that of Ms. Heather Gooze, who is here testifying with us today. I also want to recognize two other survivors of the October 1st shooting, Heather Brown Sallan and Christine Caria, who are also here.

Lives were saved because stranger helped stranger. There were helpers like Jonathan. Despite receiving a gunshot wound to the neck, Jonathan saved the lives of 30 people by leading them out of the venue and aiding them in taking cover. 

Other helpers, like Tami, an Iraq war veteran, stayed behind to help victims on the ground. Tami used her ER nursing experience to triage those who were immobile because of their injuries. Despite her best efforts, Tami couldn’t save one young woman and had the heartbreaking task of telling a mother that her daughter was dead. Tami said, “I’ll never forget that girl’s face. I had to tell the mom that her daughter had gone.”

As a lifelong Las Vegan, I have never seen such a profound community response as I saw in the hours, days, and weeks after the shooting. I continue to be amazed at the strength and spirit that will help us move forward. 

Following this terrible event, I have focused on working with my colleagues on reforms that would stop tragedies like this from happening again.

As members of this committee are aware, the mass shooting in my hometown was made more lethal because of a firearm accessory referred to as a “bump stock.” This is a device designed to turn a semi-automatic rifle into an even deadlier weapon. I welcome the testimony today on these accessories. I believe what we hear today will confirm that these devices should be kept off our streets. I am proud to cosponsor Senator Feinstein’s Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act, a bill that would outlaw bump stocks and similar accessories. I believe we must pass this legislation so the law is clear: bump stocks do not belong in our country. We cannot and should not wait to do this through a lengthy rule making process that could take years. The victims of the October 1st massacre and all Americans need action now.  

I also welcome a discussion of the ways we can improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Our wounds from Las Vegas had not yet healed when we learned of another terrible shooting, this time in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The tragic event at the First Baptist Church drove home that we must reevaluate our background check system so that those who should not have a gun cannot buy one. I am proud to cosponsor the bipartisan Fix NICS Act, which would place tighter protocols on the federal government, states, and localities to ensure the crucial information of prohibited purchasers is uploaded into the NICS database. I hope the testimony today will inform our work on this important legislation. 

As a gun owner myself, I understand the importance of our Second Amendment rights. Hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Nevadans own guns—it is part of the culture of our state. But my constituents also understand that there are common-sense steps we can take to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals. This hearing is an important first step to making meaningful change, and I look forward to working with the members of this committee on the next steps we must take to make America safer.  

Every day I think of the victims and survivors of the Las Vegas shooting, and every day I try to honor their legacy. Thank you for the opportunity to share their stories today.