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A Times Editorial

Editorial: A small step toward preventing future carnage

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., announce legislation to ban devices like the bump stock that make weapons capable of firing hundreds of rounds in a minute.

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Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., announce legislation to ban devices like the bump stock that make weapons capable of firing hundreds of rounds in a minute.

This argument can be made in 10 seconds. Find any cellphone video of the massacre in Las Vegas, and listen to the rat-tat-tat of a gun capable of firing hundreds of bullets per minute. Listen for 10 seconds to the confusion, the terror and finally the screams of concertgoers. And then ask yourself why, in America, is it permissible to buy attachments that can essentially turn otherwise legal weapons into illegal machine guns.

A week ago, most Americans had probably never heard of a device known as a bump stock. Ostensibly designed to make it easier for someone with a disability to handle a gun, the attachment was allegedly used by Stephen Paddock to kill people as quickly and efficiently as possible from his perch in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel room Sunday night. Why are these devices legal?

The attachment basically allows a shooter to use his shoulder and a gun's recoil to create a rapid-fire effect that is hard to replicate by simply pulling the trigger. In essence, this $200 device circumvents legislation passed by Congress more than 30 years ago that bans the sale of new automatic weapons. And the bump stock is not the only one. Another after-market modification known as a trigger crank can be attached to the trigger guard and allow a shooter to create a Gatling gun effect. Available online and in some stores, the trigger crank can be purchased for as little as $50. Why are these devices legal?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein once tried to have these accessories banned as part of a larger bill to get rid of assault weapons. That legislation went nowhere in 2013, despite emerging from the shadow of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Conn., months earlier.

Now, in the wake of another mass shooting, Feinstein, Sen. Bill Nelson and two dozen other Democratic senators introduced a bill Wednesday to ban the type of bump stock modifiers found in Paddock's hotel room. Amid all the usual rhetoric about politicizing a tragedy, there were signs that some Republican senators might be inclined to support this new measure. "I'm a hunter and have owned guns my whole life," Nelson said, "But these automatic weapons are not for hunting, they are for killing.''

No one is claiming this legislation would end mass shootings. And it probably won't prevent many of the gun-involved crimes in our nation's largest cities. But that doesn't mean the proposed ban on these devices is without merit. At this point, we should be doing everything we can to make it more difficult for domestic terrorists to carry out their hate-filled agendas.

Instead, as bump stocks and trigger cranks illustrate, we are making mass murder too easy. And if you do not believe that, just consider the House went into this week prepared to vote on a bill that would have eased restrictions on silencers. Just imagine how many more people would have been killed in Las Vegas if they had not fled when they heard the shooting begin.

For Congress, this legislation on gun accessories should be the minimum it should pass. These devices are designed to create carnage and not much else. They have no useful purpose in society, and they should be banned. It is not a Second Amendment question. It is not an attempt to confiscate or ban guns. It is simply a matter common sense and public safety.

Editorial: A small step toward preventing future carnage 10/04/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 4, 2017 5:09pm]
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