Bump fire is all over the news this week, with reports that the Las Vegas shooter had several bump-fire stocks in his arsenal. Predictably, gun-control advocates are calling for bump-fire stocks to be banned, but, more surprisingly, gun-rights supporters are not putting up the same kind of fight they usually do. Let’s talk about why that is.
First, what is bump fire? Bump fire is a technique for pulling the trigger of a semiautomatic rifle more quickly. The idea is you let go of the rifle with the trigger hand, and push forward with the non-trigger hand. When you pull the trigger, the recoil causes the rifle to bounce against the forward pressure of the non-trigger hand. The upshot is the entire rifle bounces forward and backward while the trigger finger remains still, causing the trigger to be pulled very quickly.
You can buy a stock that makes bump fire easier to do. Bump-fire stocks containing springs are illegal under ATF regulations, but you can get a special stock that makes it easier to hold a rifle in the awkward way that bump fire requires. You can also construct a bump-fire stock from a rubber band and some other household objects.
A bump-fire stock does not make a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon. The weapon still fires only one round per trigger pull. It also does not make a semi-automatic weapon into the functional equivalent of an automatic weapon. Bump fire — with the rifle literally bouncing around in your hands — is incredibly inaccurate.
We don’t know for sure that the Las Vegas shooter used a bump-fire stock in the shooting, we only know that he had several in his arsenal. But many people, myself included, suspected that he might have been bump firing, based on the sound.
So what are the arguments for and against banning bump-fire stocks? For:
- Bump fire has no purpose in either self-defense or hunting. Its only legitimate use is recreational. (Yee haw, look at all the bullets!)
- We might be able to strike a compromise in which we exchange bump-fire stocks for something harmless that we really want, like suppressors.
- With the rifle bouncing around, bump fire isn’t safe.
- Many serious gun aficionados look at bump fire as a tacky, low-class pastime.
- Sure, many serious gun aficionados look at bump fire as a tacky, low-class pastime, but we should not allow the gun-control advocates to use bump fire as a wedge to divide the gun-rights community.
- Bump fire is safer with a bump-fire stock than with a jury rig.
- The slippery slope: Gun control advocates want to ban all firearms. If they get anything, they will just move on to the next thing. Give them nothing.
- It’s nearly impossible to define what a bump stock is. You can get the same effect from a rubber band. Vague laws create opportunity for mischief.
For my part, the most telling arguments are #2 for and #4 against. Ordinarily I would agree with the slippery slope argument, but if we got something in exchange, that would mitigate it. Whether I could support a ban would depend a lot on the precise wording.
POSTSCRIPT: Alas, it might be hard to strike the compromise, because the gun-control people would have to admit that they’ve been lying about suppressors.
UPDATE: I guess the other reason to oppose banning bump fire stocks is the gun banners do not operate in good faith, and once they come forward with their ban, it will turn out also to cover a lot of other things that do matter. And that seems to be exactly what has happened.