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A broken fence leading away from the site of the concert targeted by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock. Image courtesy of Chris Wattie, Reuters.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) unexpectedly announced that it’d back efforts to ban ‘bump stocks’ in the aftermath of the United States’ worst-ever mass shooting.

Mass murderer Stephen Paddock used several bump stocks to provide enhanced firing capability to a number of semiautomatic firearms.

In the course off 11 short minutes, Paddock fired hundreds of rounds from a hotel suite in Las Vegas’s Mandalay Hotel into a crowd of concertgoers. The hail of bullets fatally felled nearly 50 revelers and injured over 400 more.

While Paddock illegally altered some of his weapons to fire automatically, others were upgraded with ‘bump stocks.’

The New York Times described how bump stocks use the power of physical recoil to turn an ordinary semiautomatic firearm into something considerably more dangerous:

“The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger [due to recoil], causing the rifle to rapidly fire again and again. The shooter holds his or her trigger finger in place, while maintaining forward pressure on the barrel and backward pressure on the pistol grip while firing.”

The device provides something of a legal workaround to restrictions on the ownership of automatic firearms in the United States.

In a statement, the NRA’s two top leaders said, “The NRA believes that devices intended to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.

“In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities,” said Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the NRA’s two top leaders.

An opinion article on CNN speculated that the surprise move on the part of the NRA may be a matter of simple politics rather than a commitment to keeping Americans safe.

Part of the NRA’s push to regulate bump stocks is an insistence that the matter be handled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

If the ATF were to take an initiative in issuing new regulations restricting the ownership or possession of bump stocks, it’d spare Congress the pains of having to create original and independent legislation – thus depriving politicians and the public of an opportunity to engage in a meaningful debate on the future of gun control.

Moreover, the NRA’s initiative to have the ATF handle the matter comes even as Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is gearing up to introduce a bill on bump stocks.

Several senior GOP sources purportedly told CNN that allowing the ATF to lead the way toward restricting bump stocks is the preferred option for Republicans in both chambers of Congress.

“Make no mistake,” writes Chris Cillizza of CNN, “this move on bump stocks is an attempt by the NRA to stop a broad public debate on guns before it really begins in earnest. And it almost certainly will work.”

Sources

New York Times…

NRA backs ‘bump stocks’ regulations after Las Vegas massacre

The NRA’s strategic ploy on bump stocks

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