When we all learned about the horror of the massacre in Las Vegas, it took a few moments to process the information. Dozens dead. Hundreds wounded. It was an absolute nightmare.
As information trickled in, we learned that the killer used an AR-15 outfitted with a bump stock, a piece of kit most folks had never even heard of prior to the events in Las Vegas. In an instant, it was obvious that the innocuous device that had been around for years, which had never been used before in such an incident, was in the crosshairs of anti-gun politicians and the media.
Meanwhile, media outlets like to think that banning the blasted things is “sensible.”
This is one case in which arguments in favor outweigh arguments against. One Senate opponent, Republican Doug Ericksen of Ferndale told the Associated Press that the measure would not stop a “crazy psycho” from committing a mass shooting. Aside from a cavalier dismissal of mental-health issues, his point could apply to any law on the books; someone intent on breaking it will do so. This measure, if it does become law, will offer a deterrent to owning the devices and a tool for law enforcement to prevent future mass shootings.
We have been skeptical of previous gun control measures that made their way to the Washington ballot and won voter approval in 2014 and 2016. The first was Initiative 594, which requires background checks for private sales, even those between family members. That was followed by Initiative 1491, which set up a process to allow law-enforcement officers, family members and others to ask a judge to keep firearms out of the hands of someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.
In both cases, we thought the restrictions crossed the line into infringing on gun owners’ rights, in part because the initiatives’ language was too broad and too vague. The bump stock measure is undergoing the legislative vetting that initiatives don’t; as part of the back-and-forth, lawmakers approved an amendment that narrows the definition of a trigger modification device, a move that won over some undecided lawmakers.
It’s a shame that lawmakers have failed to point out that bump fire can happen without a bump stock. By banning the stock, you literally accomplish nothing except make it so people can’t buy one particular means of bump firing. If you want to ban all means of bump firing, you’ll also need to ban belt loops and rubber bands.
There’s nothing sensible about banning a device that’s little more than a piece of plastic that is used by thousands of people for nothing but entertainment simply because one individual misused it. Especially when it’s far from the only way to create that particular effect with an AR-15.
The fact is, there’s nothing we can do that will stop the next person who wants to pull off a Las Vegas-style attack, especially if we want to honor the Second Amendment to any degree. Banning bump stocks won’t, and neither will anything else that’s been proposed by various states.
That makes such laws senseless. What is the good of a law if it accomplishes nothing?