Pos­si­ble bump stock ban has huge po­ten­tial

Woonsocket Call - - Opinion -

The fol­low­ing ed­i­to­rial ap­peared in the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 6:

We're re­lieved con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans ap­pear ready to con­sider a lim­ited form of gun con­trol: ban­ning the bump stock, the rapid-fir­ing de­vice used in the Las Ve­gas mas­sacre.

We're stunned the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion seems to agree. What a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment this could be, in the wake of a hor­ren­dous crim­i­nal act, for the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about gun rights and gun cul­ture.

The sniper who slaugh­tered more than 50 peo­ple and wounded nearly 500 at an out­door con­cert pos­sessed nu­mer­ous weapons, in­clud­ing some retro­fit­ted with bump stocks. This al­lowed the shooter to fire at a near-con­tin­u­ous rate, as if rak­ing his tar­get area with a ma­chine gun.

Why on earth would any pri­vate in­di­vid­ual need ac­cess to a weapon of war? That's the ques­tion even adamant de­fend­ers of the Sec­ond Amend­ment right to gun pos­ses­sion ap­pear will­ing to ask in the wake of Las Ve­gas. Our an­swer is that there is no com­pelling rea­son to give civil­ians the fire­power of the in­fantry.

The his­tory of ma­chine gun reg­ula- tions dates to Chicago's gang­ster era of the 1920s and early '30s. The bad guys shot each other up with Tommy guns. The Na­tional Firearms Act of 1934 clamped down on ma­chine guns by im­pos­ing tax and reg­is­tra­tion re­stric­tions. Th­ese days, the sale of au­to­matic weapons to civil­ians is banned, and the sale of au­to­matic weapons man­u­fac­tured be­fore 1986 is closely reg­u­lated and mon­i­tored.

Then in 2010, man­u­fac­tur­ers be­gan of­fer­ing the bump stock, a $100 to $400 con­ver­sion de­vice that al­lows a semi­au­to­matic ri­fle to fire at close to the same rate as a ma­chine gun. It does this by re­plac­ing the stock and pis­tol grip with a piece of equip­ment that har­nesses re­coil power to bump the trig­ger back and forth re­peat­edly against the shooter's fin­ger.

The added lethal­ity of a bump stock is grotesque: The Las Ve­gas shooter ap­peared to fire as many as 90 bul­lets in 10 se­conds. With­out such a de­vice, it would take sev­eral min­utes to de­liver that many rounds. You can find YouTube videos that show shoot­ing ex­perts test­ing bump stock de­vices, and even one of them sounded con­cerned about the avail­abil­ity of such fire­power for as lit­tle as 99 bucks. "The pack­ag­ing this thing came in said 'spray 600 rounds a minute,'" one ex­pert says on his video. "That's right: 'Spray 600 rounds a minute.' They've since changed that on their web­site to say 'safe and pre­cise,' but I think the peo­ple be­hind this could learn a cou­ple lessons."

As we wrote ear­lier this week, gun vi­o­lence in Amer­ica is an epi­demic. There are steps law­mak­ers can take — such as re­quir­ing back­ground checks on all pur­chases, and lim­it­ing the ca­pac­ity of mag­a­zine clips — that would ad­dress the scourge with­out tramp­ing on the Sec­ond Amend­ment. Yet gun rights pro­po­nents, led by the NRA, in the past have re­sponded as if they were be­ing told the con­fis­ca­tion of all weapons be­gins at dawn. Even af­ter the 2012 mur­der of 26 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 20 first­graders, at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in Con­necti­cut, the de­bate was shut down by those who see gun own­er­ship as a fun­da­men­tal right pro­tected by the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Then came Las Ve­gas: dozens dead at the hands of a sniper mow­ing down con­cert­go­ers as if he were straf­ing an en­emy bat­tal­ion. It's too much for even the NRA to ig­nore.

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