By Anthony Romanelli, opinion editor
The National Rifle Association, a lobbying group dedicated to protecting gun owners and their firearms, has strongly condemned the use of “bump stocks” in the Las Vegas shooting and has advocated for additional regulation on the devices, a strong departure from NRA policy in the past. Despite this, the association’s position on Second Amendment rights has not wavered, but this action suggests a more cooperative environment for politicians to work with them in the future.
When gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on an open-air concert in Las Vegas from an elevated position in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, 2 of his 23 weapons were outfitted with “bump stocks”. These devices, consisting of a stock and grip, essentially increase the rate of fire on the weapon, turning it from semi-automatic to automatic.
Assault weapons, which are the most common automatic firearms, are illegal in the United States for civilians to own and use unless they possess a certain license. Bump stocks, which are both legal and relatively cheap, circumvent the issue at the cost of effectiveness. Because of their crudity and the fact that they are installed to semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks are extremely difficult to aim and are rarely ever used by gun enthusiasts despite their legality.
The NRA called out the devices on October 5, in a rare display in favor of additional regulation, which the NRA and their political allies in the Republican Party usually oppose in any form.
“Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the official statement read.
This statement was followed by a request to the government to “immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law”.
Other Republican leaders in favor of less gun control have come out saying they would consider supporting a bump stock ban. Among them are Senators John Cornyn (R. Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R. Louisiana), who have recently been joined by Marco Rubio (R. Florida) and Orrin Hatch (R. Utah). All of them are publicly opposed to gun control, but they have all said they are possibly in favor of a bill proposed by Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein of California to ban bump stocks entirely.
The NRA does not seem as compromising. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre warned lawmakers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to “do their jobs” and that the bill may be a gateway for further restrictions on legal firearms.
“On bump stocks, let me say this, the fact is that the Obama administration a couple years ago legalized a device, their ATF, that fuzzed the line between semiautomatics and fully automatics. And if we’re able to fuzz that line, all semiautomatics are at risk,” LaPierre added.
While no policy-makers have wavered on their other gun stances, it seems that Republicans might just disagree with their lobbyists on bump stocks. Even the Trump administration has said it was “open” to talking about the issue.
Regardless if it will come to fruition, this compromise is a welcome break from the polarized politics of 2016’s election and an important step in uniting the country in this difficult time.