A week ago, did you know what a “bump stock” was?
Most Americans likely would have guessed a type of livestock or a term for stocking shelves in a store. Now we know the horror “bump stocks” can cause. A bump stock, according to the Washington Post, is a piece of plastic or metal molded to the lower end of a rifle that harnesses the gun’s recoil and allows the shooter to fire dozens of rounds per minute. They’re only used with high-capacity magazines, holding 60 to 100 rounds – which a bump-stock modified rifle can empty in 10 seconds.
Firing that fast, there is utterly no concern for accuracy; the only purpose of such a device is to push rounds out of the gun as fast as possible.
Fully automatic weapons have been illegal in the United States (without a hard-to-get permit) since the National Firearms Act of 1934. There are good reasons – think of those old movies where gangsters sprayed bullets without regard for human life. So why is a “bump stock” – which turns a semi-automatic weapon virtually automatic – legal?
There is no good answer, especially now that the Las Vegas shooter used them on his rifles to kill 58 people and wound hundreds more.
It’s already illegal to own a bump stock in California. It should be illegal everywhere, which was the purpose of the legislation Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced in 2013. But her proposal never came up for a vote. The National Rifle Association didn’t like it, so, under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell, her bill disappeared.
Now, some Republican senators are having second thoughts. They’ve signaled they might be willing to support such a ban, and Feinstein reintroduced the bill Wednesday.
We should be happy there is even this slightest movement in trying to enact sensible rules for gun ownership. But this is such a small step, and there are so many more steps that must be taken.
For instance, Republican legislators must get out of the way of expanded background checks that were first proposed after Adam Lanza burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School and fatally shot 20 innocent children, and six teachers. They’ve got to use the least tiny bit of common sense and compassion to allow our government to stop the sale of firearms to people on a terrorism watch list – the rule that was proposed in 2016 after Omar Mateen shot more than 100 people, killing 40, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
As the stories of heroism and horror emerge from Las Vegas, it appears that hearts are changing. Republicans know something must be done; we all do. As Sen. John McCain told the Washington Post, “Americans are horrified by it. They’re horrified, and they should be.”
Unfortunately, the NRA is suggesting quid pro quo for its acquiesence on bump-stocks. As its price, it wants national “reciprocity legislation,” that would require all states – no matter how strict their gun laws – to honor concealed-carry permits issued by other states, no matter how lax their laws.
These issues are not linked and shouldn’t be.
Instead, We’re hopeful all of this talk will amount to action. But it shouldn’t have taken 547 innocent people getting shot or trampled to convince Republicans and the NRA to consider a truly modest and sensible gun-control policy. Twenty schoolchildren should’ve been enough.
Congress should follow California’s lead, and ban assault-style rifles and large-capacity magazines. That’s not going to happen, at least until another 50 or 60 or more people are left dead or bleeding.