In the days since Las Vegas massacre, there has been a renewed effort by citizens groups, congressional Democrats, and even Walmart, to address the sale and use of “bump stocks.” These devices turn semi-automatic weapons (which are largely legal) into de-facto automatic ones (which are largely illegal). Gunman Stephen Paddock reportedly used bump stocks to increase the volume of his slaughter in Las Vegas.
Whether anything changes depends, of course, on the pro-gun fanatics in the Republican Party. This time, cracks appear to be forming in the GOP’s previously intractable opposition to any gun regulations, as leading Republicans pronounced themselves open to curbing bump stocks. Even the NRA itself came out in lukewarm support of reexamining the regulatory rules surrounding them.
But first, they have to figure out what the hell a bump stock is.
It seems that Republicans are so committed to letting the gun lobby run riot that they have allowed a heinous piece of killing equipment to slip by them completely undetected.
“I own a AR-15 but I don’t own a bump stock,” explained Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. “I didn’t know what a bump stock really was.”
Joining Graham in his ignorance was South Carolina Republican Representative Jeff Duncan, who told reporters that “I didn’t know they existed until this.”
But Graham and Duncan are hardly outliers.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee reportedly refused to comment on any pending effort to regulate bump stocks because his staff still had to “sit down and walk me through the issue.” Alabama Senator Luther Strange, also struggled with understanding the bump stock question, telling reporters: “That’s an issue I’m trying to get to speed on, actually.”
Texas Republican Representative Bill Flores, meanwhile, has emphatically endorsed any plans to curb the sale and use of bump stocks despite being a new arrival to the issue. Speaking with The Hill, Flores said:
Based on the videos I heard and saw, and now that I’ve studied up on what a bump stock is — I didn’t know there was such a thing — there’s no reason for it.
Perhaps most important of all the Republicans publicly outing themselves as illiterate on this particular issue is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
“I didn’t know what they were until this week, and I’m an avid sportsman,” Ryan told MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt. “And so we are quickly coming up to speed with this.”
It would be better if legislators had just a bit more awareness of the specifics about the murder machines they are allowing to proliferate in the United States, wouldn’t it?
Of course, banning an item that turns a tool designed to kill into a tool designed to kill even more quickly is about as minimal a response to our pandemic of gun violence as is physically possible. Whether this means America might finally be ready to begin addressing its unique and horrifying addiction to guns remains to be seen.