Congress eyes bump-stock ban after Ve­gas mas­sacre

The Week (US) - - News 5 -

What hap­pened

In­ves­ti­ga­tors this week dra­mat­i­cally changed the time­line of the Las Ve­gas mass shoot­ing, the dead­li­est in mod­ern U.S. his­tory, amid a rare bi­par­ti­san push in Congress to re­strict sales of a gun ac­ces­sory used in the mas­sacre. Po­lice ini­tially said that a se­cu­rity guard at the Man­dalay Bay Re­sort and Casino was shot and wounded about 10 min­utes after Stephen Pad­dock, 64, opened fire on con­cert­go­ers from his 32nd-floor suite, killing 58 and in­jur­ing 489 more. Of­fi­cers said guard Je­sus Cam­pos then pro­vided “ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal” help in find­ing the gun­man. But po­lice re­versed that se­quence of events this week, re­veal­ing that Pad­dock shot Cam­pos six min­utes be­fore un­load­ing on fes­ti­val­go­ers—rais­ing ques­tions over why po­lice took so long to re­spond. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said it wasn’t yet clear why Pad­dock ended his mas­sacre after 10 min­utes, two min­utes be­fore po­lice ar­rived on his floor, or why he car­ried out the shoot­ing. “We may never know,” said Clark County Sher­iff Joe Lom­bardo.

House law­mak­ers in­tro­duced bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion that would ban “bump stocks,” an ac­ces­sory found on 12 of Pad­dock’s ri­fles. Such de­vices al­low a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle to fire con­tin­u­ously when the trig­ger is pulled, mim­ick­ing a fully au­to­matic weapon. The Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion said it sup­ported “ad­di­tional reg­u­la­tions” on bump stocks by the Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives, but op­posed a law to ban the de­vice. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot at a con­gres­sional base­ball prac­tice ses­sion in June, joined sev­eral Repub­li­cans in cau­tion­ing against a “rush to judg­ment” over ban­ning bump stocks.

What the columnists said

Even ar­dent gun en­thu­si­asts will agree that reg­u­lat­ing bump stocks is com­mon sense, said the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner in an ed­i­to­rial. Congress de­cided decades ago that au­to­matic weapons should be heav­ily re­stricted. But for “less than 20 min­utes of as­sem­bly and just a cou­ple hun­dred bucks,” an aspir­ing mass mur­derer can make a “poor man’s ma­chine gun.” Bump stocks har­ness a ri­fle’s re­coil to “bump” the trig­ger back and forth on a shooter’s fin­ger, un­leash­ing up to 800 rounds a minute.

“Ban­ning bump stocks won’t solve any­thing,” said Richard Parker in The New York Times. There’s a whole mar­ket of cheap mil­i­tarystyle giz­mos that “ef­fec­tively turn le­gal, semi-au­to­matic ri­fles into deadly, au­to­matic weapons of war.” That’s why the NRA’s sur­prise con­ces­sion to re­strict bump stocks is “a ruse,” said Gra­ham Vyse in NewRepub­lic.com. By tout­ing the bare min­i­mum in gun con­trol, the group wants to dis­tract the Amer­i­can public from de­mand­ing more mean­ing­ful reg­u­la­tion, like re­strict­ing sales of semi-au­to­matic ri­fles and high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines.

Still, gun con­trol ad­vo­cates should seize this op­por­tu­nity for “small, in­cre­men­tal progress,” said Ed Kil­gore in NYMag.com. The most ur­gent task is to sep­a­rate “Sec­ond Amend­ment ab­so­lutists from Repub­li­cans who are at least open to rea­son­able re­stric­tions.” If ac­tivists can use bump stocks to “drive a wedge” be­tween these two groups, they might res­cue the GOP from ex­trem­ists who de­pict every gun con­trol dis­cus­sion as a “Manichean strug­gle against those who want to con­fis­cate all firearms.”

A bump stock like those used by Pad­dock

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