Four days after the NRA revealed its tentative support for a ban on “bump stocks” – a product that nobody had heard of until last week when Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock used them to convert semi-automatic rifles to fully auto – California Senator and vocal gun-control advocate Dianne Feinstein made a stunning admission on CBS’s “Face the Nation” when she said that "no law would’ve prevented Paddock" from carrying out his deadly plan.
Paddock, Feinstein says, was a “well-to-do” man who “wasn’t mentally ill” (this despite reports speculating that he may have been schizophrenic). Given his financial resources, grim determination and – most importantly – ability to easily pass background checks, his right to own a firearm was never in question.
JOHN DICKERSON: What do you make of increased sales of bump fire stocks in wake of this shooting and then now legislation?
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: See, I don't know what to make of it. What this event said – this is a well-to-do man, he wasn't mentally ill. Um, he wasn't a criminal, he wasn't a juvenile, he wasn't gang banger, and he was able to buy 40 weapons over a period of time, have 12 bump stocks, line them up, break through two windows in his hotel suite, and take aim at tens of thousands - well I guess over a thousand people at a concert. And this was such a cross section of America that it really struck at every one of us, that this could happen to you. And we want to stop it.
JOHN DICKERSON: Could there have been any law passed that would've stopped him?
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: No, he passed background checks registering for handguns and other weapons on multiple occasions.
JOHN DICKERSON: From the other side, those who would like to restrict guns in America, who hear a bill targeted as you've described it narrowly at this idea – at bump fire stocks – and say, "The only way to stop this kind of situation in America is to ban these kinds of semi-automatic weapons, and weapons that can fire with rapidity, and anything short of that is insufficient." What do you say to those people?
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I agree with them to a great extent. What I don't – because, as you know, I did the assault weapons legislation in 1993, which was law of the land for 10 years. So I believe, I mean I've watched this thing from the Texas bell tower to today, in schools, in businesses, in workplaces. No one appears to be safe anywhere.
This admission from Feinstein is surprising, considering her longtime support for gun control (she helped champion the 1993 assault weapons ban) and the fact that she was one of the first to speak out about the need for more effective gun control laws following the Las Vegas shooting, offending many victims and their families in the process with her transparent attempt to politicize the tragedy.
Feinstein, it’s worth noting, is one of the sponsors of the bill to ban bump stocks that has garnered support from many Republican legislators and the White House. Bump stocks are already banned in California. The NRA has said it would support “additional regulations” on the devices.
“Face the Nation” Host John Dickerson quickly turned the conversation to the Russia investigation, prompting yet another revealing, but ultimately unsurprising, admission from the longtime California senator. Namely, that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has yet to find evidence. Though she later insinuated that Chairman Richard Burr – who delivered a memorable status update last week – and his fellow Republicans have been trying to undermine the investigation, without elaborating as to how. She added that proof will "likely" be uncovered by the Mueller investigation which has grand jury power... although if that were the case, one would expect it to have been leaked by now.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me switch here to another topic for you, which is the Senate Intelligence Committee work that you've been doing. Chairman Burr of that committee said that the question of collusion between the Russians trying to influence the election and the Trump campaign was still an open question. Is that because there's more disclosures that suggest it's a possibility, or just because nothing's been found yet, and it's an open question because there's no proof that it's happened?
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I think the latter. It's an open question because there's no proof yet that it's happened, and I think that proof will likely come with Mr. Mueller's investigation. He's got the ability to use a grand jury. He's got the ability to use the power of subpoena without question. And he's got the ability to do a criminal investigation. And that's what's going on, and I think that's where the information will come.
What happens in a political body, and I am finding this as the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, everything has to be negotiated with the party in power, and it's very difficult to do an investigation under those circumstances.
Does the fact that Paddock would’ve easily sailed through background checks suggest that the rush to judgment after the shooting was premature? Perhaps: more importantly, instead of a blanket solution, perhaps the far bigger issue at hand here is the gradual devolution of US society, where banning guns is simply dealing with the symptoms of what is fundamentally a far more troubling - and bigger - underlying malady, one which has its foundation in the unprecedented splintering and polarization of American society, and where contrary to cheap talking points, there sadly is no simple solution how to "get things back to normal."