The gun debates raging in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting include focus on a little-known modifier used by the shooter: a “bump stock” that lets a semi-automatic rifle fire hundreds of bullets in seconds.
The “bump stock” is a plastic shoulder stock designed to attach to an AR-15 or AK-style rifle. The main manufacturers, BumpFire Systems and Slide Fire, state that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does not consider them illegal modifications because there are no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs. The trigger still has to be activated for each shot fired, but the recoil action of the gun, in conjunction with a bump stock, allows rapid-fire shooting.
Multiple demonstrations available online show that the bump stocks allow the semi-automatic rifle to become nearly fully automatic, supposedly allowing a rate of fire of 400 to 800 rounds per minute instead of the single round for each trigger pull of a semi-automatic.
Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had 23 guns in his hotel room, and 12 of them were equipped with bump stocks. Paddock on Sunday night killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 at the country music festival across from his hotel, before killing himself.
However, audio from the attack portrays extended, rapid bursts of fire that could not be replicated with single trigger pulls, according to Business Insider. ATF spokesmen said later Tuesday that Paddock had modified at least 12 firearms with bump stocks.
Local gun shop owners say they don’t carry the bump stock.
“Nobody ever asks about them, not around here,” said Chris Parciak, of Curt Smith Sporting Goods in Belleville. Metro Shooting Supplies in Belleville does not stock the modifier, nor does Michael’s Arms and Accessories in Edwardsville.
“I don’t really see it as necessary,” said Tom Johnson, manager at Michael’s Arms. “Nobody asks for it. I don’t mess with any of that stuff. I could order if if someone wanted it, but I don’t push it.”
Bump stocks can be ordered online for as little as $99, and from a variety of gun suppliers and outdoors retailers, such as Cabela’s. Buyers of the Slide Fire version posted glowing reviews on the Cabela’s website — though some complained that it caused them to expend a great deal of ammo. One buyer suggested that the device “must have been developed by an ammo manufacturer as you will go through a lot of it, and fast.”
Firearms expert Massad Ayoob told MSN.com that the devices are rarely used by serious shooters because it’s hard to shoot accurately with them. “Serious shooters want accuracy,” he said. But the accuracy of the shots would not have made a difference to a mass shooter like Paddock, he said, because there were nearly 30,000 people in a two-acre area.
Manufacturers of the devices claim they’re legal in every state, including Illinois. State legislators from the metro-east could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
On the federal level, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said he believes Congress is complicit in the mass shootings because of its failure to act on gun control.
“We’re not just casual observers of this violence,” he said Monday on the floor of the Senate. “We are supposed to pass laws to make America safer.”
On Tuesday, more Democratic senators spoke in Washington in favor of stricter gun controls.
What’s a bump stock?
Popular Mechanics explained it this way:
These devices, which are legal, use a semi-automatic weapon’s recoil to allow it to fire repeatedly at a rate closer to that of a fully-automatic weapon.
Bump stocks are simple pieces of equipment that replace the stock of a rifle and add a small “support step” in front of the trigger. The shooter rests his finger on this step and pulls forward on the barrel or forward grip to press the trigger against his finger. The recoil of the shot then propels the rifle backwards into a gap in stationary stock where the loose fit gives the rifle freedom to bounce forward. This, along with sustained forward pressure on the rifle, has the effect of ‘bumping’ the trigger back into the shooter’s unmoving finger.
So long as a shooter maintains forward pressure, the rifle will continue to fire at a rate much faster than could be accomplished with even the quickest possible series of manual trigger pulls.