This Month’s Obsession: Bump Stocks

If you’ve been following the fall-out from the Las Vegas Shooting, you may have seen a familiar pattern emerge. Instead of looking at the broader causes and events of that night, the Left have decided that rifles fitted with bump stocks are now solely to blame for it.

To hear the NY Times tell the story, the only use of bump stocks is to commit mass murder, and there is a large majority in the country who want them to be banned. It might be true that a lot of people now want them banned, but what national polls like this fail to take into account is the number of people who only heard of bump stocks this month.

That is, a lot of people don’t have any experience with actually owning or using firearms, and so they are susceptible to whatever liberal propaganda is flying around at that particular moment. Right now, they are told that bump stocks are evil. Last year it was large capacity magazines, next year it might be pistol scopes.

The Truth

In reality, banning bump stocks is not going to prevent mass shootings like that we saw in Las Vegas. I know I’m repeating an old argument, but it is one that bears repeating – if someone is determined to commit mass murder, legal restrictions on firearms are the last thing they are going to worry about.

Now, I’m not going to use this column to defend bump stocks on their own. I’ve never used one, and they remain a pretty niche item. Instead, and in order to combat the narrow focus of the left, let’s look at weapon modification more generally.

There has been a long and illustrious history of people modifying their own weapons, especially for hunting purposes. Rifles like the AR-15 are especially popular for this, and a huge range of after-market parts are available to adapt everything from the lower receiver to the caliber. Why do people spend hours modifying their guns? To make them better suited to their needs.

I’m not going to sit here and defend every single adaptation that can be made to a firearm. Some are undoubtedly done for less than noble reasons – to make a gun look more macho, or simply because the owner had too much time on their hands. But the vast majority of modifications are made so that a gun is easier to use, more effective, and ultimately safer.

And this is the point – that if we allow bump stocks to be banned, irrespective about how we personally feel about them, this will open the way for more regulation. You might think bump stocks are useless, but the choice and freedom to use them is worth defending.

The Problem

The issue here is one that comes up every time there is a well-publicized mass shooting. Not many people on the left actually own and use guns on an everyday basis, and so they lack a broad view of the issues they are talking about. Without basic knowledge of how people use guns, the left are very susceptible to myths – some would call them lies – about firearms.

The newest obsession is bump stocks, but you don’t have to look far to see similar campaigns. The current debate about de-regulating suppressors has been warped by another such myth: that suppressors are “silencers” that allow criminals to kill their victims silently. Anyone who has actually used a “silencer” will know that this is definitely not the case. Guns are incredibly loud, whether they are fitted with a suppressor or not.

With regard to bump stocks, a set of reactionary legislation is already being presented. The latest bill designed to ban their use is bi-partisan, a rarity nowadays, and it seems like the horror of Las Vegas might lead to this bill passing.

In some ways, this is understandable. The public demand that “something must be done”, and politicians rush to do “something”, irrespective of the actual outcome. Whatever side of the gun debate you are on, however, it is clear that such a narrow focus on a relatively benign rifle modification is no way to be making policy.

In short, I would argue that the left need to take a much broader view on gun control, and that this can only be done by talking to those who own and use weapons on an everyday basis. Only by doing this can we avoid the debate lurching from one narrow issue to the next.

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