The Politics Of Bump Stocks, 1 Year After Las Vegas Shooting Most Americans first learned about "bump stocks," which speed up the firing rate of semiautomatic rifles, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre. A year later, they're still mostly legal.
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The Politics Of Bump Stocks, 1 Year After Las Vegas Shooting

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The Politics Of Bump Stocks, 1 Year After Las Vegas Shooting

The Politics Of Bump Stocks, 1 Year After Las Vegas Shooting

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's been almost a year now since many Americans first heard the term bump stock. A reminder, this is that piece of hardware you can use to adapt certain guns to make them shoot faster, deploy more bullets. The Las Vegas gunman is believed to have used them on his rifles to inflict the most possible damage on that country music festival happening across the street from his hotel. At the time, there were calls for a bump stock ban. One year later, NPR's Martin Kaste follows up on where that stands.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Right after Las Vegas, Jeff LaCroix decided he wanted to give his daughter, Haley, a chance to fire a bump stock before it was too late.


JEFF LACROIX: Yeah. You've told me. She's like, I want to shoot it before - if they have to get rid of it, I want to shoot it before we have to get rid of it. And today we're going to do that.

KASTE: LaCroix has a YouTube channel dedicated to outdoorsy pursuits in rural Louisiana, and he posted this video of himself and Haley six days after Las Vegas. She's grinning, a little nervous. Her ear protectors are decorated with freshly picked flowers.


LACROIX: Put your finger in there. Hold tight right there. OK. Push. More pressure. Hold...


HALEY: Oh, my God. OK.

LACROIX: (Laughter).

HALEY: It's fun. Oh, God.

KASTE: LaCroix says it's just a thrill shooting something that's almost as fast as a machine gun. At the time, he was expecting bump stocks to be banned right away. Now a year later, he's still waiting.

LACROIX: Did I think after the shooting that they were going to take them immediately? Yes. I'm surprised they haven't done something earlier, or tried to do something earlier.

KASTE: What happened is this. Last fall, there were calls for federal legislation banning bump stocks, but that idea didn't go far in the Republican-controlled Congress. Then President Trump came out against bump stocks, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives started looking for a regulatory fix. The ATF is now considering whether to define bump stocks and similar devices as machine guns, which would make them illegal under existing federal law. So far, the ATF has collected public comments on this, more than 35,000 of them. Alia McCants is a mother of young twins in New York, and she told the ATF that she saw no good reason for anyone to own a bump stock.

ALIA MCCANTS: Is your fun worth someone else's life? And if not then let's take some reasonable, common-sense measures to protect the lives of, you know, of our kids, of each other.

KASTE: The thing is, most avid shooters don't even want bump stocks, even for fun. The devices are generally considered a gimmick, something that makes a rifle jump around too much while burning through a small fortune in ammunition. Michael Hammond is the legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America. He personally has no interest in shooting with bump stocks, but still he's unhappy about the potential federal ban.

MICHAEL HAMMOND: Our question is whether or not this is an effort to go the back door and ban semiautomatics by regulation.

KASTE: And here's the thinking. A bump stock is a very simple thing, mechanically. It just uses the rifle's recoil, that jump as it fires, to pull the trigger again for you faster than your finger could. Some hobbyists have achieved the same effect with homemade devices. There's even a video of a man bump-firing his rifle with nothing more than a thick rubber band wrapped around the trigger.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: That was 32 rounds bump-fired from the shoulder.

KASTE: And if a rubber band is all it takes, Hammond says a ban on bump stocks could pave the way for a ban on any rifle that might be bump-fired this way. That argument gets no sympathy from William Rosen. He's with Everytown for Gun Safety.

WILLIAM ROSEN: I think the gun lobby and gun extremists have to default to this slippery slope argument and just essentially scare people - scare, you know, well-meaning, law-abiding gun owners into thinking there's going to be some dire consequence.

KASTE: While federal action is still pending, gun control groups are cheered by action at the state level. Rosen counts 10 states that have banned or restricted bump stocks since Las Vegas, and he sees a new willingness by states to step in where the feds won't. Not just on bump stocks but other gun issues, too, such as red flag laws, which make it easier for police to take firearms from people believed to be a threat. And in this larger arena of gun policy, Rosen does agree with the gun rights people on one thing - bump stocks, per se, are relatively unimportant.

ROSEN: You know, prohibiting bump stocks is a very small part of the overall strategy to reduce gun violence in this country, but I think it just indicated, again, where we are politically.

KASTE: Where we are politically is here - a gimmicky, rarely used rifle attachment that most people had never heard of before Las Vegas has now become a symbol for both sides in the American debate over guns.

Martin Kaste, NPR News.

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