A Bump in the Debate Over Gun Violence
The National Rifle Association has finally found a device it will not unequivocally defend. The bump stock, which essentially turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun and helped Stephen Paddock turn Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas into the deadliest in modern U.S. history, should be subject to "additional regulations," the group said Thursday.
If congratulations are not quite in order -- in the same statement, the NRA advocated for more permissive right-to-carry laws -- the group deserves some credit for beating many of its clients in Congress to the punch. The other caveat is that the NRA sees its concession as the end, not the beginning, of a discussion of how to stop gun violence in America.
Bump stocks are a useful tool for anyone interested in indiscriminate mass murder: What you lose in accuracy, you make up in volume. When substituted for the existing stock on a semi-automatic rifle, a bump stock exploits the rifle’s own recoil to slide rapidly forward and back. The movement enables a stationary trigger finger to dramatically increase the number of rounds per minute the gun can fire.
Using both a bump stock and large ammunition magazines, Paddock fired roughly 90 shots in 10 seconds -- approaching the volume of a fully automatic machine gun. Automatic weapons have been tightly regulated since the 1930s, and manufacture of new machine guns has been illegal since 1986.
In the wake of the gun massacre, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who has waged a lengthy campaign to curtail gun violence, including an attempt to ban bump stocks, called a ban on bump stocks “our highest priority.” Some Republicans, in both the House and Senate, have suggested they might be open to such a ban. Other firearm accessories have a similar goal to bump stocks, and deserve similar scrutiny.
Of course, many Republicans said they were prepared to pass a law instituting stricter background checks after the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. But as time passed, so did their willingness to address senseless violence.
This time, the NRA is on board. Outlawing bump stocks won't solve the problem of gun violence in America, but it is a small but meaningful step toward common sense. The goal now should be to keep moving forward.
--Editors: Francis Wilkinson, Michael Newman.
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