Before a shooter released a seemingly endless torrent of bullets over a crowd gathered at a concert in Las Vegas earlier this year, most of the country didn’t know what a bump stock was. But it was the tiny attachment that had turned the Las Vegas shooter’s guns into weapons of mass destruction: Stephen Paddock had outfitted at least 12 of his rifles with bump stocks, which, attached to semi-automatic weapons, give them rapid-fire, continuous shooting capabilities. More than 50 people were killed, and more than 500 injured.
After the deadly Las Vegas shooting, lawmakers looked to the federal government to ban bump stocks, arguing that they had no appropriate purpose for sport or civilian defense, only destruction. At first, support for a ban was sweeping, bipartisan, and bolstered by the National Rifle Association—but soon the NRA turned against it, and members of Congress deflected the responsibility of regulation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.