Tennessee bump stock bill delayed; lawmaker won't let Vegas shooting survivors speak

Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, is chairman of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, which was taking up a bill to ban bump stocks in Tennessee.

A Tennessee Republican lawmaker drew the ire of Democrats and gun control advocates Wednesday when he refused to hear testimony from survivors of the Las Vegas mass shooting before a panel he leads.

Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, is chairman of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, which was taking up a bill to ban bump stocks in Tennessee.

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The devices modify semi-automatic weapons so they can mimic the rate of fire for fully automatic guns and were used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern history when gunman Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and wounded 527 more on the Las Vegas Strip.

RELATED | West TN legislator introduces bill to ban bump stocks

But Republicans on the subcommittee delayed the bill, citing speculation the Trump administration will take action against the devices.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, requested that the survivors who had left work and traveled across the country to testify still be allowed to speak.

Carter declined the request, delaying comments until the bill comes before the subcommittee again.

This prompted Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, to walk out.

“I figured if the kids in Florida at Parkland can stand up for sensible gun legislation then I could, too,” said Beck, one of two Democrats on the subcommittee. “I just couldn’t sit under that chairman and that committee that had railroaded this testimony into the dark.”

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, the other Democrat on the committee, tried to persuade the members otherwise to no avail.

It was the second time the committee refused to hear testimony on delayed bills. Carter also refused to hear from supporters of a bill to ban child marriages.

"We expect the ATF, real soon, to come out with their guidelines, with what they think about bump stocks and their actions," said House Majority Leader Glen Casada. "The ATF is much better geared to address that issue than the state legislature. We're seeing what the ATF will come out with, we think in about two weeks."

Reach Jordan Buie at jbuie@tennessean.com or 615-726-5970 and on Twitter @jordanbuie.

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