Congressional Inaction on Bump Stock Legislation Speaks Volumes

At 10:05 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2017, gun shots began to ring out from the 37th floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel off of the world-famous Las Vegas strip. For 10 horrible minutes, hundreds of rounds of ammunition were fired at innocent concert-goers watching country singer Jason Aldean give the final performance of the Route 91 Harvest music festival. In a scene of complete and utter chaos, the thousands that were attending the concert attempted to flee and find refuge from the seemingly endless bullets that were raining down. In all, 58 people died that infamous night, making it the worst mass shooting in modern American history. Fifty-eight lives lost, 58 families who will forever have to life without their loved ones. In addition to the casualties, 546 more were injured, some with life-threatening injuries.


As is the case every time there is a mass shooting, many are left wondering how this terrible event could have happened. There was something horrifically unique about this shooting; the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was able to spray an unusually high number of bullets. He was able to do this by equipping each of his semi-automatic weapons with bump fire stocks. Bump stocks make semi-automatic weapons act like a fully-automatic-firearms by allowing the gun to slide back and forth quickly by taking advantage of the kickback from the gun. Although fully automatic weapons are banned by Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, bump stocks are not illegal under federal law in the United States. This loophole, although rarely talked about previous to the Vegas shooting, is one that is glaring and needs to be fixed. In the aftermath of the shooting, one would have thought that banning bump stocks would actually be achievable. The National Rifle Association released a statement claiming that it supported “additional regulations” on devices, like the bump stock, that allow for bullets to be fired at a rate similar to a fully automatic weapon. Members of both parties, although more Democrats than Republicans, supported taking legislative action to ban the devices.


Frustratingly, however, Congress has been unable and, frankly, unmotivated to address this issue. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) introduced a bill that would make bump stocks illegal, yet it has gained no traction. Members of Congress, the same individuals who so eloquently gave their “thoughts and prayers” after the shooting, have not taken any tangible steps that would make Americans safer from future attacks. Talk is cheap and it seems cheapness is something that is quite prevalent in Congress these days. Though the NRA claimed at first it was willing to revisit the bump stock’s legality, they then clarified their position that any action taken on the issue should be done by the executive branch, not by Congress. Thus, Feinstein’s bill has met its fate.


There is no logical reason why bump stocks should continue to be legal under federal law. This gaping hole in gun control allowed for Paddock to fire much more rounds that he should have been able to at the victims. Bump stock legislation would have not prevented the shooting, but it would have saved lives and decreased the carnage. Banning this device does not infringe on one’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. It would not ban one from buying a gun. It would not even make it harder for one to purchase a firearm. It simply would prevent someone from converting a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic gun, which is already illegal to own. Bump stocks, moreover, have no practicality in hunting or in civilian life. However, in the face of facts and basic reasoned logic, Republicans in Congress have succumbed, once again, to the great power of the NRA. They would rather fail to proceed with this legislation than to deal with the political consequences of standing up to the interest group that has halted many gun control pushes after various mass shootings.


It has been five weeks since the shooting. What was once a loud outcry for action has now turned into a small whisper. Congressional inaction, however, speaks loudly enough for itself. The Republicans in Congress are hiding behind the decreasing salience of this tragedy, hoping that Americans will mostly forget about their once great and unified call to ban bump stocks. We must show them by collectively calling our representatives and telling them that we have not forgotten about the 58 individuals whose lives were tragically ended on Oct. 1. This seems as if it is the only approach left that could have any chance of something getting done. If not morals or personal beliefs, two things motivate legislators: money and popularity among their constituents. If the NRA is going to threaten with the former, then the American people should threaten with the latter. Americans must prove to Congress that it is not acceptable to delay legislation after a tragedy to cover politically for their own inaction.

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