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Las Vegas mass shooting shines light on little-known device that allows semiautomatic weapons to mimic machine guns

By in Press Enterprise on October 6, 2017

By Sean Emery, Kelly Puente

The Las Vegas mass shooting is bringing intense scrutiny on a once-obscure device that allows a semiautomatic weapon to mimic a machine gun.

Legislators in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are discussing a potential ban on the device known as a “bump stock,” with even the National Rifle Association calling for a review of whether it complies with federal law.

While already illegal in California, bump stocks are legal under federal gun regulations, a status that may change after reports that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock modified a dozen of his semiautomatic rifles with the devices before killing 59 people and injuring 527 more.

On Wednesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, joined more than two dozen Democratic colleagues in introducing a bill to ban bump stocks. The senators noted that while semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute, bump stocks can increase that to 400 and 800.

“The only reason to fire so many rounds so fast is to kill large numbers of people,” Feinstein said in a statement announcing the bill. “No one should be able to easily and cheaply modify legal weapons into what are essentially machine guns.”

Automatic weapons have been illegal in the United States for more than 30 years.

Critics of bump stocks contend that the device, which cost less than $200, provides a loophole around that restriction.

Bump stocks replace the shoulder stock of a gun, allowing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly from recoil. The modified stock repeatedly bounces between the shoulder and the stationary trigger finger, quickly, prompting rapid fire.

California, which is generally considered to have the most-stringent gun restrictions among the states, bars bump stocks through restrictions on any “manual or power-driven trigger-activating device constructed and designed so that when attached to a semiautomatic […]    

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