Reclassification of bump stocks


An AK-47 is equipped with a bump stock produced by Slide Fire Solutions.

Brendan McCabe, Opinion Editor

On Oct. 1 at 10:05 p.m., a deranged gunman began firing on a large group of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. In the span of 10 minutes, he killed 58 people and injured over 500 more before taking his own life.

After horrifying events like these, people always begin to ask themselves what could have been done to prevent such an atrocity from happening. Though this usually leads to a call to ban high capacity magazines or semi-automatic rifles, the point of contention after the Mandalay Bay shooting is the legality of bump stocks, also known as bump fire stocks.

The idea behind bump firing is that you keep a finger stationary in the trigger guard of a rifle, then pull the entire gun forward with your opposite hand. This forward motion causes the stationary finger to trip the trigger, firing the gun. Recoil then “bumps” the gun backwards and resets the trigger, allowing the entire process to repeat over and over at a very rapid pace.

Though this process seems complicated, it is fairly simple in practice. Commonly, firearm enthusiasts put their thumbs through the trigger guard, hook said thumb through a belt loop, and then bump fire from the hip. All of this can be done without a bump stock, but it is wildly inaccurate and generally only done for fun at the range and to waste ammunition.

The difference between regular bump firing and firing with the specialized stock is the latter allows one to shoot from the shoulder, which is much more accurate than from the hip.

The Mandalay Bay gunman had 12 rifles equipped with these stocks, and he fired at the crowd from over 350 yards away. Accurate fire at these ranges would not have been possible firing from the hip. Many argue that the gunman would have been just as lethal without the bump fire stocks, but this is not the case. While a semi automatic rifle can be fired rapidly with a quick trigger finger, it simply cannot compete with the sustained fire of a bump stock.

However, this does not mean they are foolproof. I’ve gotten the chance to use one in the past, and they have a much sharper learning curve than one would think. Having your timing off can result in jamming the rifle, and I personally think the stocks have very little real world application besides being a “range toy,” and many of my friends who are also firearms enthusiasts feel the same way.

We live in a time of divisive opinions on gun control, with both sides not wanting to give an inch. In particular, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is seen as an unmoving giant that opposes any and all forms of firearm regulation. However, even the NRA is open to bump fire stocks being reclassified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to a more restricted status.

This reclassification would most likely lead to bump fire stocks still technically being legal, only being sold after a $200 tax stamp and stringent and lengthy background check, similar to how machine guns were regulated in the 1934 National Firearms Act. Currently owned bump stocks would probably be grandfathered in without their owners having to pay the tax.

I own several firearms and I am a member of the NRA. I have no issue with citizens owning semi automatic rifles or high capacity magazines, as long as they are legally allowed to do so. But many of my fellow firearms enthusiasts are infuriated a niche product that has little to no practical use may become more heavily regulated.

As I mentioned earlier, the public opinion of the NRA is not always positive as it typically condemns all forms of firearm regulation. By extension, many people outside of the firearm-owning community view us in that light as well. Allowing the ATF to reclassify bump fire stocks would be a step forward towards unity on both sides of the gun control debate.

Brendan McCabe is the opinion editor for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]