Shortly after Stephen Paddock fired a volley of shots into a Las Vegas crowd and killed 58 people, a debate emerged over the “bump stocks” that the 64-year-old man had used to transform his assault rifles into automatic weapons.
By Michael Stewart
November 21, 2017
When Stephen Paddock began pulling the trigger from his Las Vegas hotel room, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others on Oct. 1, the mass slaughter was made easier by employing the use of a bump-fire stock.
Soon after, a South Carolina state legislator, Democrat Leon Stavrinakis of Charleston, said he will introduce a bill in January to ban bump stocks, the firearm accessory that allowed Paddock, a 64-year-old gambler, to transform his semi-automatic weapon into an automatic killing machine. Bump stocks are legal in South Carolina.
“Simply put, the use of bump stocks is a loophole that allows legal firearms to replicate illegal ones,” Stavrinakis said.
Shortly after the Oct. 1 massacre at a country music festival, officials with the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby, said the NRA was open to examining regulation of bump stocks.
The devices have been available for seven years, and some gun shop owners say it will be too difficult to keep them from the black market.
“I just cringe at the word ban,” said Michael McKean, an employee at the Greenville branch of Palmetto State Armory, a popular South Carolina firearm and tactical outlet store. “I’m not comfortable telling citizens what they can and cannot buy.”
When asked how many bump stocks his store sells, McKean said he did not have that type of information. The government does not regulate bump stocks.
“We don’t keep that kind of data, but I can tell you that I sell them every week,” McKean said. “It’s not a matter of quantity but principle if you know what I mean. The Constitution is about protecting minorities and at this point I think a lot of gun owners feel like minorities.”
A bump fire stock is a special piece of equipment, either plastic or metal, molded to the lower end of a rifle. The device allows the shooter to have their semiautomatic weapon fire like an automatic weapon. Some bump fire stocks can increase the rate of fire anywhere from 400 to 800 rounds per minute.
Bump stocks add a small support step in front of the trigger, where the shooter rests his finger and pulls forward on the barrel to press the trigger against their finger.
The recoil of the shot then propels the rifle backwards into a stationary stock and the loose fit gives the rifle freedom to bounce forward. This enables the shooter to pull the trigger at a much faster rate mimicking an automatic weapon.
South Carolina ranks as the fourth-deadliest state in America for gun homicide. The state averages 5.31 gun murders per 100,000 people, according to the Center for American Progress. That number is 47 percent higher than the national average of 3.61 gun murders per 100,000 people.
McKinley Verdune, an employee at Columbia gun store Shooter’s Choice, echoes the sentiments of his fellow gun store owners.
“I look at it the same way I look at drugs. Drugs are illegal and it’s pretty easy to get your hands on those, the last time I checked,” Verdune said. “The black market is already thriving. Why thrown fuel on that fire.”
South Carolina does have a rate of interstate crime gun trafficking that was 88 percent higher than the national average, according to the Center for American Progress, but lawmakers such as Stavrinakis point to lack of laws as the cause of this. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave S.C. 14 out of a possible 100 points on its 2014 state ranking of gun laws enacted.
The National Rifle Association released a statement on Oct. 5 calling on federal firearms regulators to immediately review whether bump stock comply with current laws.
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”
Brison Durnettes, of Columbia, counts himself as a supporter of gun right and favors banning bump stocks in South Carolina.
“I own a gun, I mean, really, I am a gun nerd and normally I’m not for any sort of law that will make it harder for Americans to get or keep guns, but this isn’t a gun issue, it’s more a parts issue. I don’t think this particular accessory is necessary for anyone to have on a gun and I would support that type of bill.”
Stavrinakis did not return calls for comment on the bill, but a spokesman for the legislator issued this statement.
“Representative Stavrinakis looks forward to working on a bipartisan, commonsense bill that will make our state safer.”
In 2013, he sponsored the Boland bill. It prevents mentally ill individuals from purchasing firearms. The proposal was passed after a mentally ill woman, Alice Boland, legally purchased a firearm and attempted to open fire at a school in Charleston.
It prompted the creation of a database of people judged to be mentally defective, such as those deemed by the courts to be incompetent or people involuntarily sent to a mental institution, and restrict those persons access to firearms. Then Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law in 2017.