The “Bump Fire” in action on a semi-auto rifle. (Screen capture, YouTube, Lisa Jean)
With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi jumping quickly into the post-Las Vegas blood fest to exploit Sunday’s mass shooting to push a political agenda, it should not take long for the gun prohibition lobby to push for a ban on so-called “bump stocks.”
That’s the suddenly popular generic term for an aftermarket device marketed either as the Slide Fire or Bump Fire. It’s a stock-replacement kit that includes a replacement pistol grip component for semi-auto rifles such as the AR platform. When attached to certain semi-auto sport/utility rifles, it can mimic (not convert) the performance of a machine gun, using the recoil of the rifle to speed up the rapidity of discharge. The Denver Post is reporting that the Las Vegas killer had two of them.
Surprisingly, in an Op-Ed piece published Tuesday by the Seattle Times, authors Ralph Fascitelli and Jordan Royer with Washington Ceasefire don’t mention the “bump stock” device while alluding to Las Vegas. But at the time the piece was written, nobody knew what kind of gun(s) the killer used. It still hasn’t been specifically explained by authorities.
Fascitelli and Royer offer three “reasonable” suggestions to prevent violence. They would ban so-called “assault rifles,” arguing that “No reasonable hunter would consider their use as sport, and if someone wanted them for target practice, they could be made available at gun ranges.”
Further, they advocate a 10-round magazine limit, and lastly they suggest so-called “smart guns.”
The Second Amendment, say responding readers, isn’t about hunting or target shooting. Critics also note how a skilled shooter can swap out magazines in less than a second.
“Smart gun” technology may or may not work, and while Fascitelli and Royer don’t actually say it, they seem to suggest a mandate, which gun owners will strenuously oppose.
Millions of people own AR-type rifles and hurt nobody. Nationally syndicated radio host Lars Larson noted that he owns several during a chat on Seattle’s KVI Tuesday morning. They have not been involved in a crime.
But the “bump stock” device is bound to come under political fire. Anti-gunners invariably need a demon, and this accessory is a perfect candidate.
The Associated Press reported that suspected killer Stephen Paddock had 23 firearms in his suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel. He knocked out two windows to cover different angles and areas of fire, a strategic preparation that has ignited the conspiracy theorists.
Reporters right now seem focused on the number of guns the killer had. That may be a distraction. A lot of people who own lots of guns didn’t hurt anybody Sunday night. Some of those who were hurt or even killed were very likely gun owners.
Pelosi wants to “open a dialogue” about guns. Where has she been for the past 40 years? There has been an on-going “dialogue” about firearms for decades. Just because that conversation hasn’t gone the way she might have liked is no reason, say gun rights activists, to declare an emergency. The gun control debate began in even before passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The Supreme Court has weighed in twice on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms twice in the past ten years, both times coming down on the side of individual fundamental rights. They may take up the question again, thanks to a recent case in Washington, D.C. called Wrenn v. District of Columbia, if the city decides to appeal to the high court.
For the immediate future, however, the “bump stock” is as likely a target for anti-gunners as so-called “assault weapons” or full-capacity magazines. It’s a new angle on a long-running story about guns and people who dislike them.
If the device played a significant part in Sunday’s mass mayhem, that may be where the next battle will be fought.