Ve­gas gun­man mod­i­fied a semi-au­to­matic weapon

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL BALSAMO and SADIE GUR­MAN

LAS VE­GAS - The man who un­leashed hun­dreds of rounds of gun­fire on a crowd of con­cert­go­ers in Las Ve­gas had two ac­ces­sories that al­lowed his semi-au­to­matic ri­fles to fire rapidly and con­tin­u­ously, as if they were fully au­to­matic weapons, of­fi­cials said.

Though legally and widely avail­able, the so-called “bump stocks” have at­tracted scru­tiny from au­thor­i­ties and law­mak­ers in re­cent years.

Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has long ex­pressed con- cern over the avail­abil­ity of such ac­ces­sories, said Tues­day that Las Ve­gas shooter Stephen Pad­dock mod­i­fied at least one of his weapons with a bump stock de­vice, but she did not elab­o­rate.

“In­di­vid­u­als are able to pur­chase bump fire stocks for less than $200 and eas­ily con­vert a semi-au­to­matic weapon into a firearm that can shoot be­tween 400 and 800 rounds per minute and in­flict ab­so­lute car­nage,” she said, call­ing for a ban on their sale.

A semi-au­to­matic weapon re­quires one trig­ger pull for each round fired. With a fully au­to­matic firearm, one trig­ger pull can un­leash con­tin­u­ous rounds un­til the mag­a­zine is empty. The bump-stock de­vices work by ma­nip­u­lat­ing the trig­ger mech­a­nism ex­tremely rapidly, far faster than a per­son could do so with­out them.

Au­thor­i­ties found two bump stocks in Pad­dock’s ho­tel room, two of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion told The

They are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether those items were used to mod­ify weapons used in the mas­sacre, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials, who were briefed by law en­force­ment and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still un­fold­ing. Sher­iff Joseph Lom­bardo hasn’t said whether they played a role in the ram­page.

Au­thor­i­ties say Pad­dock opened fire from the win­dows of his 32nd floor ho­tel room late Sun­day, killing 59 peo­ple and wound­ing hun­dreds more at a coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val. Po­lice stormed his room and found he had killed him­self after com­mit­ting the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory. Wit­nesses and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said the quick, 50-round bursts of gun­fire raised the pos­si­bil­ity that Pad­dock had used a fully au­to­matic weapon or mod­i­fied his semi-au­to­matic ri­fles to func­tion like one. Pad­dock had 23 guns in his ho­tel room.

Yet the pur­chas­ing of fully au­to­matic weapons has been sig­nif­i­cantly re­stricted in the U.S. since the 1930s.

In 1986, the fed­eral Na­tional Firearms Act was amended fur­ther to pro­hibit the trans­fer or pos­ses­sion of ma­chine guns by civil­ians, with an ex­cep­tion for those pre­vi­ously man­u­fac­tured and reg­is­tered.

Nu­mer­ous at­tempts to de­sign retrofits failed un­til re­cent years when bump stocks came on the mar­ket.

The de­vice ba­si­cally re­places the gun’s shoul­der rest, with a “sup­port step” that cov­ers the trig­ger open­ing. By hold­ing the pis­tol grip with one hand and push­ing for­ward on the bar­rel with the other, the shooter’s fin­ger comes in con­tact with the trig­ger. The re­coil causes the gun to buck back and forth, “bump­ing” the trig­ger.

Tech­ni­cally, that means the fin­ger is pulling the trig­ger for each round fired, keep­ing the weapon a le­gal semi-au­to­matic.

And they con­tinue to sell. Ed Turner, a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer who owns a gun shop in Stock­bridge, Ge­or­gia, said he’s see­ing a run on bump stocks since the shoot­ing. While he would be sur­prised if he had sold two of them in the past decade, he is now un­able to find any avail­able, even from whole­salers.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PBS

The Las Ve­gas shooter had a cheap mod­i­fi­ca­tion that made his ri­fles more deadly.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NRA BLOG

Gun Sales Sky­rocket

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