Even though few people, including most lawmakers, had ever even heard of a “bump stock” until last week.
But then came Las Vegas, and we all learned about them quickly after mystery shooter Stephen Paddock used the devices to open fire on a crowd attending a country western concert across from the Mandalay Bay resort. He killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 in what is being called the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
In the wake of the massacre, and as the investigation into Paddock and the huge stash of weapons he had with him in the hotel, his vehicle and home outside of Las Vegas proceeds, many lawmakers, including some Republicans who generally oppose gun-control measures, are ready to consider banning, or regulating, the obscure gun accessory that can make a legal semi-automatic weapon fire nearly as rapidly as a fully automatic one.
Paddock reportedly had 12 of them.
And so bump stock has become the term du jour signalling the vile attack. And there has been a clear call to get rid of them, and soon.
In the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is already sponsoring a law to outlaw bump stocks, which were approved in 2010, under the Obama administration, after the government decided they did not violate federal law.
In a horrifying case of unintended consequences, bump stocks were supposed to help people with limited hand mobility fire a semi-automatic without the individual trigger pulls that requires, according to Feinstein’s office. With applied pressure a bump stock can cause a rifle to fire continuously, increasing the rate from between 45 and 60 rounds per minute to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute, according to the senator’s office.
In the House, Democrats Dina Titus of Nevada, whose district includes the site of the massacre, and David Cicilline of Rhode Island have introduced a bill to ban the manufacture, possession, transfer, sale or importation of bump stocks. An early draft of the bill is silent on what to do with all the bump stocks already in private hands.
Even the NRA appears to be on board with at least a review of bump stocks and has issued a statement it “believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
And the larger issue of increased gun control legislation will surely draw the expected lines in the congressional sand between the generally more conservative Republicans who tend to favor the NRA and oppose new gun regulations, and more liberal Democrats who have long called for increased background checks and in some cases banning semi-automatic weapons altogether.
Those who have called for gun control debates after previous massacres such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where children and teachers were the targets, will say this absolutely is the right time. But whether that occurs now or not, at least all lawmakers should be able to agree to close this deadly loophole to protect other citizens in the future.
Especially now that everybody knows what a bump stock is and what it can do.
Congress legalized bump stocks; now it needs to ban them.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.