Did Obama Approve Bump Stock?
The latest and deadliest U.S. shooting incident has brought attention to the term “bump stocks.” Stephen Paddock used an assortment of bump stock-enhanced automatic weapons to kill 58 civilians in Las Vegas.
Many Americans might be wondering three things. What is a bump stock? Are bump stocks legal? If legal, did Barack Obama approve bump stocks?
Of these three questions, there seems to be much concern over whether Obama approved bump stocks. The short answer is yes. A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) official, Rick Vasquez, admitted that he approved bump stock devices during Obama’s first term as president. High-profile officials from the Donald Trump administration have also gone on record stating that bump stocks were made legal under Obama’s watch. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has also stated that President Obama approved bump stocks on at least two occasions. (Source: “NRA, Trump administration say Obama is to blame for ‘bump stocks’,” The Washington Post, October 5, 2017.)
The fact that even the NRA, which had a difficult relationship with the Obama administration over gun control, conceded that bump stocks could use some regulation may be surprising to some. The NRA has even asked the BATFE to review the law concerning bump stocks. (Source: Ibid.)
There appears to be a general consensus about the question “are bump stocks legal?” As for the question “are bump stocks sensible?,” the answer to that is a resounding “No.” If the NRA and President Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway have urged BATFE to review bump stocks, it removes any doubt that they are a legacy of the Obama administration. (Source: Ibid.)
Obama Executive Action Gun Control
There’s a sense that the Obama administration did not understand what bump stocks did. That’s because, a few years after the BATFE approved bump stocks, Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that Obama’s executive actions on gun control were well within his legal authority. (Source: “Lynch: Obama’s executive actions on guns are lawful,” CNN, January 20, 2016.)
Now, that doesn’t necessarily prove that they’re lawful. But it does answer the question: “Did Obama sign gun control executive orders?” Indeed, he did. Moreover, it also answers the question: “Does Obama support gun control?” Clearly, he does.
Having established Obama’s stance on gun control, it leaves the big mystery as to how the government deregulated bump stocks during his watch. It was such an unusual step that even the NRA—as hinted above—has budged, conceding that this equipment needs more regulation.
Obama launched his executive action gun control measures as he began his last year at the White House in January 2016. His gun control measures, among other things, demanded that gun sellers—in stores at shows/exhibitions, or online—to have a license and conduct audits. The steps also provided for more FBI agents to be involved in controls, as well as commitments to offer more mental health services. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was one of the main critics of the Obama plans for gun control.
What Is a Bump Stock?
“Bump stock” is short for what firearm manufacturers call “bump fire stocks.” Bump stocks have also gone by the name of a popular manufacturer like Slide Fire. This may explain how BATFE and other officials could have had a confused understanding of how does a bump fire stock work.
The United States’ deadliest mass shooting—in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 1, 2017—raised the usual questions and opposition about possible restrictions on gun sales. But it also identified a culprit about which few people had any idea: the bump stock.
What is a bump stock? The short answer is that it’s a modification that can legally alter the characteristic of a semi-automatic weapon. If a gun owner wants to modify the semi-automatic AR-15, for example, he or she can attach the accessory known as a bump stock to turn it into a fully automatic weapon.
Gun enthusiasts enjoy the transformation at the firing range. Those intent on mischief, however, like Stephen Paddock, use bump stocks to increase their kill power. Police said that at least 12 of the weapons they found in Paddock’s Las Vegas hotel room were retrofitted with bump fire stocks. Many consider Slide Fire, from Moran, Texas to be the ultimate bump stock manufacturer.
How Does a Bump Stock Work?
First, it’s instructive to understand some key gun parts and what they do. The barrel is where the bullet comes out and the trigger is self-evident. Then there’s the stock. That’s the part of a rifle that the user places against his/her shoulder. Bump fire replaces the gun’s original stock, hence the name bump fire stock.
This device rigs a semi-automatic gun in such a way that the weapon will move back and forth automatically, exploiting the recoil from each shot. The user can hold the trigger pulled back and the gun shoots fire just like automatic weapons, which happen to be regulated. A semi-automatic weapon forces the user to pause shooting for a few hundredths of a second, having to pull the trigger back and forth. Fully automatic weapons are deemed as such because they fire their whole magazine with a single pull of the trigger if the user so desires. (Source: “What are the ‘bump stocks’ on the Las Vegas shooter’s guns,” CNN, October 5, 2017.)
Bump stocks have taken the scent off normal firearms…somewhat. Doubtless, the United States’ deadliest mass shooting will prompt discussions about possible restrictions on arms sales. The subject pops up every time there’s a mass shooting. But this time, all eyes are on bump stocks. The White House and the NRA have both shown a willingness to approve more restrictions on bump fire. Doing so will allow them to show critics that they are taking some action to reduce gun violence—or at least gun sales—without actually affecting the gun rights of a vast variety of NRA members, regular gun owners, and Second Amendment enthusiasts.
Had Stephen Paddock not had access to bump stocks, he would not have been able to kill as many people as he did. The bullets from his gun would have been shot at a slower pace than the 90 shots in 10 seconds that he was reported to have done. (Source: Ibid.)
That suggests that a bump fire stock allows any ordinary person to “pimp” a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one that can shoot several hundreds of rounds per minute. Trigger-happy civilians in the United States find it impossible to legally purchase automatic weapons—even an accountant like Stephen Paddock. Without bump stocks, the Las Vegas shooting may have resulted in a lower body count.
Now that the NRA has given its approval, Trump is free to pursue some political points on gun control. Bump stocks and other accessories that might achieve similar effects will probably be subjected to increased regulations.
The negative attention on bump stocks has predictably had the opposite effect in the United States. Rather than seeing a reduced risk of Paddock imitators, the last few days may have set the stage for more imitators. Indeed, the Las Vegas massacre, the motive for which still remains a mystery, has shaken both America the country and America the gun shop. Since the shooting, there have been brisk sales of bump stocks.
Bump stocks are cheap, and they are still legal. Thus, gun owners have started to consider them must-have accessories to acquire before they are subjected to regulation. Gun shops risk running out of stock now that Trump stated that he would examine the matter shortly.
The debate over semi-automatic guns and related accessories has intensified over the past few days. Some department stores, such as Walmart, say they have reduced the availability of bump stocks, withdrawing them from shelves—well, at least from their online ones. (Source: “Walmart, Cabela’s pull bump stocks from online stores,” The Hill, October 5, 2017.)
Even if the legality of gun stocks remains intact, generalist retailers in the United States cannot afford to take the business risk. The fact that both the president and the NRA agree that bump stocks are legitimate targets for regulation efforts has given stores like Walmart much needed ammunition. They can please gun control advocates, politicians, investors, and NRA members in a single move.
The United States government will likely legislate to control and limit accessories that turn a semi-automatic rifle into a battle-ready Rambo-style weapon. However, no in-depth reform around the possession of firearms is currently planned. Even the U.S. House of Representatives will probably agree on bump stock controls. Paul Ryan, the Republican House leader, agreed to examine the problem, noting that he had not known about the existence of bump stocks before. (Source: “Paul Ryan Calls For Regulatory Fix On Bump Stocks,” The Libertarian Republic, October 11, 2017.)