Before the debate about a post-Vegas gun law collapses into a complete muddle as Gun-nut Nation tries desperately to stave off any significant attempt to impose even the weakest regulations on firearms, I thought it would be instructive and useful to clarify exactly what is and isn’t involved in turning a semi-auto rifle into a gun which will shoot upwards of 700 rounds a minute and therefore create a level of destruction which can only be experienced by using what we ordinarily call a machine gun, or full-auto gun.
The attachment which may or may not have been on the gun used by Stephen Paddock (the Las Vegas Police Department is too busy trying to figure out what actually happened to be bothered figuring out what type of gun) was determined to be a legal accessory because it still requires that the trigger be activated for every shot, whereas with a full-auto gun, or what we call a Class-III NFA weapon, the trigger needs only to be pulled one time in order to completely empty the ammunition mag. What the bump-stock does is to use the gun’s recoil to pull and release the trigger each time, so the trigger is pulled and the gun fires at the rate which the bolt moves back and forth rather than by the speed at which someone can manually pull the trigger to shoot each round. Get it?
But here is where the confusion sets in. Because in fact there are many different types of semi-automatic rifles, but this doesn’t mean that a bump-stock will work with each and every one. Here’s an AR-15:
Notice that the stock is actually just a cheekpiece which screws onto a tube extended from the gun but is not connected to the frame.
Here’s a standard, semi-auto hunting rifle:
Notice the stock is attached to the frame and if you want to remove the stock to stick on an accessory like a bump-stock, you basically have to cut away the back half of the gun. In other words, it can’t be done.
The gun industry has been trying mightily to convince consumers that the AR-15 is no different from any other ‘sporting’ gun. In fact, they have even invented a name for this product, they call it the ‘modern sporting rifle’ and they insist that there’s absolutely no difference between the gun pictured above and the gun pictured below because they both are semi-auto guns.
If one thing comes out of the debate about bump-stocks, it will hopefully be a recognition that the argument made by the gun industry to pretend that an AR-15 is no more lethal than any other type of legal firearm is an argument which will finally be put to bed. Because what makes the AR-style gun so very different from traditional semi-auto rifles is not just that it can accept high-capacity mags that can be switched in and out without losing point of aim, not just that with a collapsible stock the gun is much more concealable and transportable than a standard-size gun, and not just that you can attach hand grips to the rails which makes it easier for the recoil to be controlled.
What makes the AR-15 too dangerous to be floating around is that it can easily and quickly be converted into, in effect, a full-auto gun. Which is not the case with traditional semi-auto rifles like the Browning BAR rifle pictured above.
If Congress wants to really get serious about preventing the kind of terrible tragedy that played out last week in front of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, they should not just prohibit accessory products that can be fitted to an AR and turn it into a full-auto gun, they should also prohibit guns that will accept those kinds of products because here’s the dirty little secret you need to know.
Listening? There are instructions floating around for making and installing your own bump-stock on your AR, which would be [perfectly legal even if the so-called ‘ban’ is passed.