What Is a Bump Stock, the Gun Modifier Used in the Las Vegas Shooting?

The NRA even says it support regulating it.

Getty Images / George Frey

When the most powerful and influential gun lobby in America announces it supports a move for gun control, it’s a big deal.

The National Rifle Association called on lawmakers Thursday afternoon to consider banning “bump stocks,” a device the Las Vegas shooter outfitted his guns with to rapidly fire round after round with a single pull of the trigger. Armed with his modified weapons, Stephen Paddock killed at least 58 people attending a music festival Sunday in just 10 minutes.

A bump fire stock is attached to the end a rifle to turn the semi-automatic into a fully automatic firearm, also known as a machine gun. The difference in how fast these two firearms fire is astronomical — a semi-automatic rifle can fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute, while an automatic rifle can fire hundreds of rounds each minute. The fastest machine gun can reportedly shoot a million rounds per minute.

In the days since the attack, lawmakers have amped up talk of gun control legislation, a pattern frequently evident in the wake of mass shootings. The proposed reforms this time, though, zero in on the bump stocks that police say were attached to 12 of the shooter’s “cache of weapons”.

A bump stock can be attached to a semi-automatic rifle to increase its firing speed and make it work like a machine gun.

Getty Images / George Frey

Since it was revealed the bump stock device was used in the Las Vegas shooting, interest in the product has skyrocketed nationwide. Searches for the bump stock have abruptly increased since the news broke, Google Trends show, and gun stores across the country have reported the modifier is quickly selling out. Many firearm retailers have pulled them off of their websites and and listed them as unavailable for sale.

Democratic lawmakers in the Senate proposed legislation Wednesday that would make illegal bump stocks and modifiers that similarly aim to increase a semi-automatic gun’s rate of fire. Sen. Diane Feinstein, one of the sponsors on the bill, said there is no need for anyone to be able shoot off rounds at the rate of an automatic rifle unless the goal is “to kill large numbers of people.”

This particular gun restriction has pulled bipartisan support, which is extremely rare when it comes to firearms. Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Thursday he would introduce a bill in the House very similar to that of the Democrats that calls for a bump stock ban. Even top Republican leaders entertained the possibility of gun control legislation: House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday morning he would direct lawmakers to “look into” bump stock restrictions, while Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters Wednesday he would consider talking about the issue.

Often what stops lawmakers from advocating gun control is the NRA, whose millions of dollars of donations to political campaigns each year make it one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in D.C. But the NRA essentially said Thursday that despite gun control being a bad idea, they urged the administration to “immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law” and make bump stocks “subject to additional regulations.”

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