Congress eyes bump-stock ban after Vegas massacre
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.”