Following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, on Oct. 2, the National Rifle Association has done the unexpected and called for regulation on the sale of bump stocks and guns in the United States. A bump stock is a device added to a rifle that allows it to mimic a rapid fire weapon. According to an Oct. 5 article in the New York Times, the devices are legal, because they do not give rifles full automatic ability. However, audio clips from the Las Vegas shooting prove just how effective bump stocks are. In Las Vegas, about 90 shots were produced in ten seconds; a fully automatic weapon has a rate of 98 shots in seven seconds. This small distinction is the difference that determines the legality of firearm possession. However, according to an Oct. 8 article from The Hill, NRA executive director Chris Cox recently stated, “We don’t believe bans worked on anything,” yet he stated that the organization was open to regulating things differently.

On Oct. 7, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for more legislation surrounding guns in general, according to an Oct. 8 article in the Washington Post. This is reminiscent of her 2013 bill to ban the sale of semi-automatic guns. Generally, the Democratic party is in favor of gun regulation, and it is surprising to see Republican support on the issue as well. However, on Oct. 5, U.S. Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) announced a plan to draft a bill to ban bump-stock sales and claims that he has received support from dozens of Republicans, according to an Oct. 5 article in the New York Times. Though President Donald Trump is a supporter of gun rights, evidenced by his appearance at the NRA conference earlier in the year, he said he would “look into that” when asked about the ban on bump stocks, per an Oct. 5 CNN article. However, there needs to be less discussion surrounding the legality of the device when it is merely an issue of splitting hairs. 

A rifle with a bump stock is similar to a fully automatic weapon, the difference being about five shots per second. In addition, bump stocks don’t require a license or any authorization to purchase; they can be bought online with prices ranging from $500 to $1,000. If fully automatic guns were banned, why not ban devices that give a semi-automatic gun the same capability? Former President Ronald Reagan addressed the regulation of automatic machine guns in 1986 in the Firearm Owners Protection Bill, which limited the public and private sale of machine guns that were registered after the year 1986. Fully automatic guns are still available for sale, but in order to purchase them, one needs to complete a background check, receive written approval from their local police chief and pay a $200 tax, according to a Feb. 4, 2005 Politifact article. In addition, an application must be submitted that includes two recent photographs of the purchaser and a set of fingerprints. All of this attempts to ensure that an individual is held accountable for their actions if they were to misuse the device in any way. This is not to say that some states do not provide adequate restrictions on gun ownership. For example, both a permit to purchase and one to carry are required in Massachusetts, according to the NRA. The NRA also states that in Nevada, where the recent tragedy took place, gun owners do not need a permit to purchase, license of ownership or registration of the firearm. This, in conjunction with the ease of accessibility of a bump stock, enables anyone to possess a weapon with nearly the same capability as a fully-automatic gun. 

Interestingly, since the Las Vegas shooting, bump stock sales have increased tremendously. In an Oct. 5 CNN article, Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works, stated that ever since the shooting was reported, he has received around 50 people a day asking for bump stocks. He also stated that his distributors have sold out as well. Cargill isn’t alone; several other gun salesmen have given similar accounts regarding the newfound popularity of bump stocks. In the same CNN article, another gun shop owner said that he had five bump stocks that were collecting dust for months, but once the story broke, four of them were sold in one day. Even Slide Fire, a company that has sold bump stocks for the past four years, has suspended their service stating, “We have temporarily suspended new orders to process current orders as quickly as possible.” In order to create actual change, strict limitations must be placed on the sale and purchase of deadly items; who knows what a potential imitator might try to do. This is not a call to make gun possession illegal or punish gun owners, but it is a suggestion that states increase their regulation of bump stocks and firearms.