On October 1st, 2017, a gunman in Las Vegas brutally murdered 58 people and injured 489 more. Audio from the shooting highlighted what sounded like automatic fire. However, the shooter did not have a fully-automatic weapon. He had a semi-automatic weapon that had been equipped with a bump stock, enabling it to produce near fully-automatic rates of fire.
Along with the normal gun control rhetoric that always follows a shooting, gun control advocates have also called into question the idea of a legal attachment that essentially turns an AR-15 into a machine gun.
While the NRA won’t commit to opposing bump stocks, they have left the door open, with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre saying that the ATF should revisit bump stocks and “do its job”. This is a far cry from the hardline stance the NRA typically takes on gun control. So why is it different this time, and what is the future of bump stocks?
The Usefulness of Bump Stocks
In reality, the usefulness of a fully-automatic weapon is limited, and the usefulness of bump stocks is limited even further. While military issued rifles almost always are select fire, allowing the operator to switch back and forth between semi-auto and full-auto fire, anyone who has ever seen combat will tell you that there is almost never a situation where they flip their rifle into full-auto.
Full-auto is hard to control and burns through ammo too quickly. The only times, for the most part, that full-auto is used in a combat situation is for cover fire – which is done by a dedicated machine-gunner, or to mow down large crowds.
Bump stocks are even less useful since they decrease the accuracy of the weapon and take time to switch between fully-auto and semi-auto. While we are hesitant to gloss over any gun control attempt, there’s a reason why the NRA is leaving the door open on banning bump stocks. Supporters of the Second Amendment know that the original purpose of the Second Amendment was to give the people the ability to defend themselves against both foreign and domestic threats. Having access to semi-automatic rifles such as AR-15s is essential to maintaining a well-regulated militia. Having access to bump stocks, though, is not, and there is really no self-defense or combat situation where a bump stock would prove useful.
As Stephen Paddock showed, though, there are situations where bump stocks can be quite deadly.
The Slippery Slope of Gun Control
In spite of the fact that there really isn’t much practical need for bump stocks outside of them making for a fun day on the range, the truth is that gun control of any kind is a slippery slope. In the same interview where Wayne LaPierre left the door open on the possibility of banning bump stocks, he also said, “On bump stocks, let me say this, the fact is that the Obama administration a couple years ago legalized a device, their ATF, that fuzzed the line between semiautomatics and fully automatics. And if we’re able to fuzz that line, all semiautomatics are at risk.”
Indeed, blurred lines and bans on weapons or attachments of any kind is a slippery slope. Whether they’ll come out and say it or not, many of our elected officials would be perfectly happy with a complete gun ban. And, as history has shown, sometimes when you give an inch they take a mile.
Regardless of whether or not we need bump stocks, what we definitely don’t need is gun control advocates using legislation that bans bump stocks to ramrod through other gun control legislation. If organizations such as the NRA are going to leave the door open on a bump stock ban, they need to be very vigilant to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The truth is that, in all likelihood, bump stocks will probably remain legal. While they have seen some pushback, it really hasn’t been the level of pushback that would be needed to change the laws that are on the books.
In the instance, though, that a ban on bump stocks does go forward without the resistance of the NRA, gun owners are going to have to remain vigilant. We may not need bump stocks for any practical purposes, but gun control of any kind is a slippery slope with a dangerous ending.
~ American Gun News