Following the massacre in Las Vegas that left at least 59 dead and more than 500 wounded, lawmakers and gun control advocates are honing in on one component of gunman Stephen Paddock's massive stock of weapons that allowed him to effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire machine guns—a cheap, accessible, and perfectly legal firearm modification device known as a "bump stock."
"Automatic weapons are illegal, but individuals are still able to purchase bump stocks to allow semi-automatic weapons to fire up to 800 rounds per minute and inflict maximum carnage."
—Sen. Dianne FeinsteinInvestigators have said that 12 of the 47 guns found in Paddock's hotel suite were equipped with bump stocks, which enable rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. While gun advocates have defended the legality of bump stocks on the grounds that they are merely "range toys" used for "fun" and "entertainment," lawmakers and supporters of stronger gun control measures have denounced the attachment as a "loophole" that allows gunmen like Paddock to commit massacres.
"I don't know anybody who goes deer hunting that needs to retrofit a gun to fire hundreds of rounds per minute," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.) on Tuesday. "It's to slaughter people."
As the New York Times notes, "replacing a standard rifle stock, the part that rests against the shoulder, with a bump stock allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire at a rate comparable to a fully automatic rifle—much faster than a human user can pull and release the trigger."
"The shooter does not move the trigger finger; instead, the weapon bounces, or 'bumps,' rapidly between shoulder and finger," the Times added.
While it is unclear which of the rifles Paddock used to carry out the Vegas massacre, the machine gun-like sound reported by witnesses and heard in videos of the shooting have led many to revive calls for an outright ban on bump stocks and similar attachments.
In 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pushed for such a ban, but her proposal ultimately went nowhere.
Following Sunday's shooting, Feinstein reiterated the need for a bump stock ban, arguing that lawmakers should be working urgently to "close this ridiculous loophole for good."
"Automatic weapons are illegal, but individuals are still able to purchase bump stocks to allow semi-automatic weapons to fire up to 800 rounds per minute—the rate of automatic weapons—and inflict maximum carnage," Feinstein wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. "I'm looking at ways to proceed with legislation to ban bump fire stocks...Doing nothing in the wake of this tragedy is not an option."
"I'm done waiting for the 'right time' to talk about it. The 'can't talk about it now' crowd is killing us."
—Washington Gov. Jay InsleeWashington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) joined Feinstein in calling for a ban on bump stocks and "other devices that turn legal semi-automatic firearms into lethal fully-automatic machine guns" in a statement on Tuesday.
"We must make sure people intent on causing mass destruction and loss of life won't be aided by lax laws that give them unfettered access to military-style weaponry," Inslee concluded. "To those who say we can't talk about machine gun massacres right after the massacre: I'm done waiting for the 'right time' to talk about it. The 'can't talk about it now' crowd is killing us."
Gun control advocates have joined this growing chorus of lawmakers, demanding more than thoughts and prayers.
"Hardware that turns legal guns into automatic weapons should be prohibited," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, wrote on Tuesday. "Automatic weapons are highly regulated; this evades federal law."