As America continues to reel from the horror unleashed in Las Vegas this week, remembers the victims and all the heroic acts of concert-goers saving each other, the picture of the shooter and his high-powered, military-style weaponry is becoming clearer.
Searching the shooter's 32nd floor hotel room, investigators found 23 firearms, almost all of which were semi-auto assault rifles, along with high-capacity ammo magazines, sniper scopes, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Searching the shooter's home, more firearms were found, as well as more ammunition and signs of explosives. In all, 47 firearms were discovered that had been in his possession.
On many of the assault rifles, investigators found "bump-fire stocks." This is a very important point. What are bump stocks and why are they important?
"Bump-fire" is a technique used by "gun enthusiasts" to fire semi-auto guns far faster, almost like a full-auto machine gun, by using the gun's recoil to cause their finger to hit the trigger in a rapid fashion. HERE is an example of someone bump firing an AK pistol.
"Bump-fire stocks" are similar, in that they are an accessory rifle stock (the back part of the gun that goes up against your shoulder) that is manufactured in such a way as to create the bump-fire action in an easier fashion. In the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “This replacement shoulder stock turns a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute." This in essence turns a semi-auto assault rifle, which is already high-powered, into nearly the equivalent of a fully automatic "machine gun." These also help get around strict gun regulations in California which are meant to prevent fully automatic rifle sales. Feinstein had introduced a bill in 2013 to ban bump-fire stocks, but the bill was defeated. In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, she is looking to re-introduce the ban.
The Mercury News released a very good article that describes in more detail how bump-fire stocks work.
Here is a video of a gun manufacturer who is selling bump-fire stocks, as advertised during the 2013 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, ironically, in 2013. Note how fast the shots are fired with it with both an AR-15 and AK-47:
[UPDATE: shortly after publishing this post, that video was taken down, so here is a different video demonstrating a comparable bump-fire stock in action] The narrator says "Once we really got the hang of this thing, it was a ton of fun. As you can see here, Brian is just rippin' through rounds here and really enjoying it!" then adds "It's cheap, it's only $100."
Here is another video, this time by a gun nut showing it off with his AK-47, calling the bump-fire stock a "real fun toy" (note that his little child is just off-camera, asking when he can have a turn):
UPDATE: (As with the other videos I originally posted, this one was taken down soon after I published this blog post. -- it seems the gun guys aren't too keen on their ads for these bump fire stocks now that 59 people were killed and hundreds injured by a shooter with one.)
HERE is another video that compares "the world's fastest shooter" to bump fire.
Compare the rate of fire to the horrifying audio from the Las Vegas massacre. Rapid fire like that belongs on the battleground, not at a concert in Las Vegas. There were military veterans who died at the concert, who suffered from PTSD from their time overseas. Imagine the horror they felt as they heard rapid fire, here at home, which took the life of this Navy veteran, or this Marine who managed to survive and helped save the lives of others. “It was a mini war zone but we couldn’t fight back,” he said.
Now imagine if a silencer (or "sound suppressor") had been used in addition. Due to the Las Vegas shooting, the House decided to delay a vote on a bill (deceptively called the SHARE Act, supposedly to help hunters) that would deregulate silencers, as well as armor-piercing ammo and other gun regulations.
The shooter's weapons were not suppressed. Because of this, other hotel patrons heard the gunshots, like this guy two stories up, and were alarmed. When the police team searched for the shooter's room, the sound of the gunfire helped them find him (in addition to smoke alarms from the smoke created by the weapons during firing). One policeman stated, “I'm inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor, I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.” If the guns had had silencers on them, most hotel patrons beyond one room away likely wouldn't have known what was happening, and police would have had a harder time locating the shooter's room.
Don't believe me? Consider the following video, where a gun enthusiast demonstrates his AR-15 assault rifle, complete with bump-fire stock, outfitted with a sound suppressor. He describes it as "very very quiet suppressor." Listen carefully and judge for yourself whether you would be able to hear it more than a couple rooms away:
UPDATE: as with the first video in this post, this video was also taken down a day after I posted. So here is a different video with a bump-fire stock with and without a silencer. Compare the noise it produces. He doesn't even need ear protection:
UPDATE: And now that link, too, has been taken off. YouTube decided that it doesn't meet their guidelines! Good for YouTube, honestly.
"Fun, fun!" he exclaims after firing. "Life is really good." He doesn't even need to wear ear plugs or any ear protection.
And why would anyone need the bump-fire stocks? For the "Fun, fun!" of it, apparently, unless you're fending off a small army of invaders -- or trying to kill hundreds of concert-goers.
It's time to ban these heinous devices and bring a new trajectory to our societies away from gun violence.
UPDATE (10/5/17): House Republicans are considering voting on a bill to make bump-fire stocks illegal, introduced by Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo. From a CNN article:
The Florida Republican said his proposal would be a straight ban on bump stocks: "no one can have them, no one can make them, no one can transfer them." His approach mirrors a measure introduced by House Democrats on Wednesday.
UPDATE (10/5/17): Well, now here's a surprise! It must be the first time in two decades that the NRA is actually willing to support a form of stricter gun regulation! They are willing to support stricter regulation of bump-fire stocks.
A statement from the NRA, from an article:
The group said: "Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations." ....
The NRA called on Thursday for regulators to "immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law". ...
"In the aftermath of the evil and senseless attack in Las Vegas, the American people are looking for answers as to how future tragedies can be prevented," NRA chiefs Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox wrote in the statement.
Does this mean that they will also support other means of rapid fire, such as "bullet buttons" or the sale of parts and books intended to make your own full-auto modifications, or 3D printed parts that do the same? I hope so. UPDATE (10/12/17): Eh, nevermind, says the NRA, they don't actually support a ban on them, just "further review" by the ATF, who can't regulate firearms *accessories* unless told to do so by a law passed by Congress. So, in other words, nothing will change if the NRA has it's way. Gee, what a surprise.
Again, as with the GOP, I suspect that they are throwing the public a bone in the hopes that public outrage over this shooting can be quelled before further gun regulation is proposed.
UPDATE (10/5/17): President Trump has also signaled that he would be willing to consider a ban on bump-fire stocks.
UPDATE (10/10/17): Not only are the gun nuts ashamed to the point of pulling their YouTube videos, but retailers are now pulling the bump-stocks off the market, even though there is demand. Good for them!
UPDATE (2/20/18): President Trump today said that he would move to make bump stocks illegal. In his words: "Just a few moments ago I signed a memo directing the attorney general to propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns." It's just a memo, and the NRA and pro-gun legislators have already, quietly, opposed the measure. So we'll see what comes of it. Also, he said, "ban all devices," so does this include trigger cranks, bullet-buttons, and other devices? What about all the books and accessory parts sold out there that help gun owners retrofit their semi-auto rifles to become full-auto?
UPDATE (12/18/18): Today, the Trump administration has officially banned bump stocks. "Under a new federal rule, those who possess the devices, commonly known as bump stocks, will get 90 days to turn them in from the date that the final rule is published in the federal register, which is likely Friday, the officials said." It took a lot of pressure and going around Congress, but, for once, I'm approving of Trump's stance on something.