As our nation continues to mourn the passing of those we lost in Las Vegas, it goes without saying that this incident has once again ignited the gun control debate around the country. One particular aspect of gun control many people are currently discussing is the legality of bump stocks.
The coward who carried out the deadly attack in Las Vegas had 12 firearms equipped with bump stocks. There are multiple videos of the shooting in which you can hear gunshots that sound like they’re coming from a machine gun.
Now, for those who aren’t familiar with a bump stock, basically, it’s an attachment that replaces a rifle’s standard stock (the part of the rifle held against the shoulder) and fore grip that allows the shooter to fire faster.
If you’re a visual learner, the bump stock in the photo below (shown on an AR-15) is outlined in red.
Here’s how it works: The bump stock enables the weapon to slide back and forth between the shoulder and the trigger finger. The shooter holds their finger in place while pushing forward on the barrel and pulling back on the pistol grip.
This push-pull action along with the bump stock cause the trigger to repeatedly hit the shooter’s finger to fire multiple shots in rapid succession.
Is This Legal?
Fully automatic firearms have long been the target of federal legislation. The National Firearms Act of 1934 imposed a special tax on machine guns designed to curtail their sale and possession. This law also required civilian-owned machine guns to be registered.
(The federal definition of a machine gun is “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manually reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”)
In 1986, stricter laws were enacted. The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 banned the possession and sale of machine guns manufactured after May 19 of that year, making it currently illegal for private citizens to possess fully automatic firearms. (If you own an earlier model, you must obtain a federal license.)
Because bump stocks don’t mechanically alter the function of the firearm to make it fully automatic, they’re technically legal under federal law. Nowadays — depending on the specific firearm — bump stocks can be purchased for $100–500, which has made them very popular among recreational shooters.
But do bump stocks make that much of a difference? Not really.
Bump Stocks? Fuggedaboutit
With a little practice, you can make a rifle without a bump stock mimic the rapid pace of a rifle with a bump stock. A well-trained shooter can manipulate their firearm by holding it loosely, causing the rifle to recoil against their finger — which is essentially what a bump stock does. Of course, this motion is difficult to control and would quickly grow tiring for the shooter, depending on the pace at which they are firing.
Since the recent shooting, bump stocks have become even more popular because some gun owners think they should buy one before they are banned. The thing is bump stocks are not something I feel the need to own — which is why I don’t. (I can pull the trigger plenty fast, so I don’t need the help of a bump stock.)
Plus, your accuracy suffers when you’ve got your rifle sliding back and forth. And since law-abiding gun owners like you and I are responsible for every bullet that leaves our firearms, it wouldn’t be a good idea to shoot a rifle you can’t control.
The Las Vegas shooter, on the other hand, obviously didn’t care about accuracy since his goal was to hurt as many innocent people as possible.
It’s no surprise that within about a week of the shooting, several members of Congress proposed legislation to outlaw bump stocks. This is a dumb idea in my opinion because politicians should be focusing on the problem of mental illness instead of a piece of plastic.
The bottom line is it doesn’t really matter if the federal government outlaws bump stocks, since they aren’t an important gun part anyway.