WASHINGTON (CN) – A Las Vegas bartender gave emotional testimony Wednesday at the Senate, encouraging the Judiciary Committee to ban bump-fire stocks like the one used by the gunman who carried out the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Heather Gooze was working at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival on Oct. 1 when 58 were left dead and 546 wounded after just 10 minutes of gunfire.
Describing the ordeal from the time the first shots rang out to when she made it home, covered in the blood of strangers, Gooze said she spent most of the chaotic night assisting frightened and wounded concertgoers.
“At one point I got called over to hold a jean jacket against a victim’s head to try and stop the bleeding,” Gooze said. “We shouted for him to wake up. He was breathing, but not conscious. As a car pulled up to load the injured, the jacket fell and I was left plugging the hole in the victim’s head with my bare fingers. That man’s name was Chris, and he died the next day. That’s all I knew at the time. Now I know his name was Chris Hazencomb.”
Gooze struggled to maintain her composure during her testimony, as did several members of the public watching the three-part hearing from the Senate gallery, some of them sporting red T-shirts that said “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.”
Though she would not characterize herself anti-gun, Gooze said she said she supports a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act, which would ban bump-fire stocks.
“Those devices are not for hunting; they are not for target practice,” Gooze said. “They are for hurting people. And they have no place in our general society.”
Feinstein moved to ban the devices, which allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more rounds of ammunition faster, in the immediate wake of the Las Vegas shooting.
Just over a month later, Air Force veteran Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 people inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5.
The Air Force had failed to report Kelley’s conviction for domestic violence to the FBI, which would have prohibited him from legally buying or owning a gun.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced a bill shortly thereafter to fix background-check reporting requirements.
Focusing her attention on the reporting loopholes, Feinstein questioned Douglas Lindquist with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division about why large numbers of domestic-violence offenders are not being entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Lindquist said that reporting requirements under the law are complex, and require proof of an act or threat of violence, and an established relationship between the perpetrator and the victim.
“So it’s a complicated matter,” Lindquist said. “And often times it’s an incomplete record.”
Lindquist said his office has tried to address this challenge through education, letting agencies that report the information know that the FBI needs it.
A review of the legality of bump-fire stocks was announced Tuesday by the Department of Justice. Also on Tuesday, the Department of Defense inspector general announced findings that the military services are not consistently submitting criminal data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Thomas Brandon, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told the Judiciary Committee that the agency is reviewing the legality of bump-fire stocks in conjunction with the Department of Justice.
“After thorough consideration, ATF has decided to initiate the process of promulgating a federal regulation interpreting the definition of ‘machine gun’ in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act to clarify whether certain bump-stock devices fall within that definition,” Brandon said.
The agency provided notice of proposed rulemaking Monday to the Office of Management and Budget, and is soliciting public comments on the matter, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
During a question-and-answer session, Brandon offered few assurances.
“I can’t promise anything other than to follow the rules of the APA,” he said, abbreviating Administrative Procedure Act.
In terms of gaps in reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Air Force secretary Heather Wilson said Wednesday that a review following the Sutherland Springs mass shooting revealed a pervasive problem.
“Our inquiry indicates the breakdown in submitting offender criminal history data was not limited to this case, or to Holloman Air Force Base,” Wilson said. “The problem was widespread across both the Office of Special Investigations and the Air Force Security Forces.”
Department of Defense inspector general Glenn Fine echoed Wilson’s testimony, telling the committee about a report released Tuesday that says the military services failed to submit 24 percent of the fingerprint cards for 2,502 convicted offenders, and 31 percent of the final-disposition reports.
The inspector general has recommended that all missing fingerprint cards and final-disposition reports for those cases be promptly submitted, and that the branches review their criminal investigative databases stretching back to 1998 to determine what other information should be submitted.