Lawmakers react to Inslee's call to ban bump-stocks, device used in Las Vegas shooting
TRI-CITIES, Wash. – Police found at least 23 firearms in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel room, including at least one “bump-fire stock” modification.
Bump firing is the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to fire shots in rapid succession, which simulates the ability of a fully automatic firearm. These attachments are not new or illegal.
Governor Jay Inslee released a statement Tuesday calling on the Washington State legislature to ban devices like those Stephen Paddock used to kill 59 people and injure 527 more, while raining bullets down on a crowd from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay.
Technically, a “bump stock” does not modify a rifle to make it automatic, which is illegal. Instead, the device only assists the shooter’s finger on the trigger.
The ATF examined bump stocks and determined they didn’t turn a weapon into a machine gun and made the decision not to regulate them like machine guns.
“Basically, because the way they work mimics machine gun fire, but it’s still bumping the trigger back-and-forth, meaning the trigger isn’t depressed all the time,” said Hannah Shearer, staff attorney at Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “It’s a technicality that’s been exploited by the manufacturers of these.”
Washington State law already prohibits converting a weapon into a fully automatic machine gun.
“But it seems that the definition of machine gun might not cover a device like a bump stock,” Shearer explained.
Here’s how it works: Two parts are removed from the rifle-- stock and pistol grip--and the bump-fire stock is added. A shooter puts one hand on the forward grip and places a finger over the finger rest. Pushing the front grip forward forces the trigger into the finger and fires the gun.
As the gun recoils, it resets the trigger for another shot. When it returns, it forces the trigger into the finger for consecutive shots.
The longer the front grip is pushed forward, the more shots are fired. It takes just a few minutes to modify a rifle to fire at near automatic speeds.
As we relive the horrific events from Sunday night in Las Vegas, from emerging stories to new video, it's sparked conversation about gun laws and gun violence. Some say it's not the time to discuss this, others saying they're ready to talk.
In a statement released Tuesday, Gov. Inslee said:
“Once again, we are mourning the violent loss of innocent lives to a man who had access to weapons no civilian should have access to. It’s impossible to know how to stop every act of gun violence, but I know with my whole being that our nation’s leaders aren’t even trying.
“It’s a different story here in Washington state. Voters have overwhelmingly approved common-sense laws to strengthen background checks and empower families to keep guns away from a loved one in crisis. Our legislature has supported efforts related to mental health and suicide prevention. I issued an executive order to look further at background checks and other gaps in the way we collect and share data relating to people who attempt to purchase guns. It’s a good start, but we can – and must – do more.
"This session the legislature needs to ban bump-stocks and other devices that turn legal semi-automatic firearms into lethal fully-automatic machine guns. We must make sure people intent on causing mass destruction and loss of life won’t be aided by lax laws that give them unfettered access to military-style weaponry.
“To those who say we can’t talk about machine gun massacres right after the massacre: I’m done waiting for the ‘right time’ to talk about it. The ‘can't talk about it now’ crowd is killing us.”
Rep. Brad Klippert of the 8th Legislative District is also ready to talk gun violence, but said he'd have to see the wording on any new gun legislation before he'd make any comment on the governor's statement.
“It's not the gun. If the gun is laying there all by itself and no one touches it, it’s not going to harm anyone,” Klippert said. “It's when it gets behind the hands of someone who is dangerous that's when the gun becomes harmful. So it’s the person that we need to monitor more than the guns.”
Democratic Rep. Lorie Jinkins of the 27th Legislative District said Washington should take a comprehensive approach to solving gun violence, from addressing mental illness to providing education.
"I think that it's highly likely that we do have a machine gun loop-hole,” Jinkins said. “So doing what we need to do to close loopholes in our law, I think is important."
Conversation surrounding gun violence remains controversial, but legislators agree we need to find solutions to better protect citizens in Washington and the United States.