Reports are claiming that Stephen Craig Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, used a fully legal bump stock modification that allowed him to simulate fully automatic weapons. These type of gun modifications are not illegal automatic guns covered by existing Federal gun control laws, nor are these type of gun modifications illegal in Nevada.
Videos of the Las Vegas massacre showed that Paddock was able to shoot steadily into the crowds gathered for the concert by country music star Jason Aldean. The audio recording made some experts believe that the Las Vegas shooting was the first mass shooting to include some sort of automatic weapon. According to the Washington Post, experts were initially investigating whether Paddock modified an AK-47 with mechanical components to make it a fully automatic weapon, or if he used a legal modification like an attachable trigger crank.
According to the Associated Press, officials have announced that the Las Vegas shooter had two bump fire stock gun modifications. These type of gun mods bypass both the 1934 automatic weapons ban and the 1986 National Firearms Act (NFA), which does not allow U.S. civilians to own or transfer full automatic weapons (often popularly referred to as machine guns) unless they were previously manufactured and registered before 1986. It is still possible to receive a federal license for owning an automatic weapon, but since the permit is limited to older guns manufactured before May of 1986, purchasing such guns requires buying a resale model.
A bump stock modification like the Slide Fire SSAR-15 is one of the several ways to simulate machine gun fire. It works by bouncing the gun off of the shooter’s shoulder, causing the finger to depress off the trigger with the recoiling motion of the gun and then fire again. The rate of fire can be as high as 900 rounds per minute (RPM), which is in the same RPM range as a real machine gun like an M240. Online reviews of the Slide Fire have indicated that aiming is more difficult than usual, but the device does achieve the purpose of simulating full automatic weapons.
Keep in mind that firing a gun at such a high rate will cause barrels to overheat, which is why real automatic weapons have easy barrel releases. With non-machine guns, switching weapons or waiting for the barrel to cool is required. Officials say that Stephen Paddock brought 23 guns into the hotel room, and they are currently investigating which weapons were used during the Las Vegas shooting.
Besides the bump fire stock and trigger crank modification, there are also the hell-fire trigger systems and BMF trigger activators. In August of 2017, another company introduced the Autoglove, a gun modification that advertises itself as providing “full-auto fire without ATF approval, tax stamp or firearm modifications.” The device is essentially a special power glove that allows the user to quickly press the trigger on any semi-automatic weapon, including pistols and shotguns.
None of these weapon modifications are the target of current gun control laws. Right now, politicians like Hillary Clinton have focused their attention on so-called gun silencers because it’s feared that such modifications would make mass shootings easier.
“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” Hillary tweeted out. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
The name of the gun barrel suppressor act is called the Hearing Protection Act because the intention is to legalize gun suppressors in hopes of preventing inner ear damage to gun owners. According to the Washington Post, the gunshots from a suppressed weapon would still be as loud as a jackhammer and the sound of gunfire should be recognizable. Suppressors work by providing expansion chambers at the end of the gun barrel so the pressurized propellant gasses can gradually expand rather than suddenly pop out into the open. The bullet itself breaks the sound barrier, which also causes a high-decibel noise.
Although politicians have yet to call for a gun control law regulating devices that simulate automatic weapons, a MoveOn.org petition for banning automatic weapons became popular shortly after the Las Vegas shooting. At the same time, those who support Second Amendment rights have created a White House petition to Donald Trump asking that the president and Congress repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934.
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