So the girlfriend of the Las Vegas shooter is in the United States and talking to the FBI. Good. Perhaps we’ll have some answers to the remaining questions of motive in the country’s worst mass shooting in modern history. But other questions of a technical nature have already been answered and it may require a fresh look at our gun laws.
Those of you who are familiar with my work here will probably be rather surprised to read this column because I’m generally one of the first to man the barricades every time the Democrats come swarming and demanding more gun control laws. In the wake of Las Vegas, however, some new information (at least to me) has me considering a couple of options we may have to seriously look at on this front.
I’ll willingly confess my own previous ignorance on two gun-related subjects. First of all, I had long known that a semiautomatic rifle, including the AR-15 style models, could be illegally modified for full automatic operation if you knew how to do it. But I’d always thought that it required some fairly advanced gunsmithing know-how and was relatively rare. I was completely unaware that there were conversion kits being legally sold which could allow a novice to do so relatively quickly and easily.
Second, I’d never heard of a “bump stock” before this week. In case you were in the same uninformed state, the New York Times offered a brief description while calling for their immediate removal from the public square.
Bump stocks are legal and inexpensive, with some versions advertised for $99.
A standard stock is firmly fixed to the rifle. But a bump stock allows the body of the rifle to slide a short distance back and forth, harnessing the recoil energy of each shot. The shooter does not move the trigger finger; instead, the weapon bounces, or “bumps,” rapidly between shoulder and finger.
As I said above, this probably seems completely out of character for me, but as much as it pains me to say it and with full knowledge of the potential implications for a slippery slope, I think we need to consider a ban on both bump stocks and these automatic fire conversion kits. (I’ll give everyone a moment here to light the torches and begin painting up posters calling for my deportation.)
Assuming you’ll allow me to get in a word edgewise after making that statement, permit me to expand on my reasoning here. The fact is that if conservatives truly want to maintain the brand of being supporters of the rule of law in a society guarded by constitutional law and order, we must recognize (even if you disagree) that fully automatic weapons are illegal in almost every instance. (We have a few exceptions which all require the highest level of background checks and federal scrutiny.) We can have a separate debate on whether such a ban is acceptable if you wish, but as things currently stand, that’s the law.
These conversion kits and bump stocks only exist for one reason, and that’s to allow a semiautomatic rifle to fire as a fully automatic model. You can pull out your amateur lawyer thesaurus (or professional copy for you actual lawyers) and try to talk your way around this subject, but there is no other purpose for these products to exist. If you accept that the law forbids the possession of fully automatic weapons in all but the most limited cases, then these products should also be illegal unless the purchaser already qualifies for ownership of a fully automatic weapons. For everyone else they should be banned.
Before you begin with the usual responses (and these are objections that I have raised myself on countless occasions), I’m mindful of the slippery slope here. In fact, the very idea of having to craft this argument makes me sick. I was reading an opinion piece from Michael Graham this morning where he reminds us of the very good reasons conservatives have for opposing any and all proposals on gun restrictions from Democrats. One of the biggies is the knowledge that enemies of the Second Amendment are always lurking and looking for an opportunity to push this door open just a crack. (Emphasis added)
It doesn’t help when gun-control advocates like President Obama specifically mention Australia as a model for reform, or when liberal magazines like the New Republic repeatedly post this headline: “It’s Time To Ban All Guns.”
This fear that the entire conversation is a con for getting rid of the Second Amendment keeps many gun-rights advocates from even offering compromises. Why crack the door to people you believe are ready to kick it in?
And, some gun-rights folks argue, why compromise when you’re winning? As Kevin Williamson of National Review magazine says: “The courts are very friendly to gun rights at the moment. I’m very confident about the legal status of the right to bear arms.”
Michael is correct. The moment you open that door just a crack, people in the Mike Bloomberg camp will absolutely be looking to kick it in. But at the same time, this may finally be the point where we define just how big that door is. The battle to prevent further erosion of gun rights through new gun control laws must go on, probably more vocally than ever. But at the moment, under current law, having a fully automatic weapon for personal use absent very specific restrictions is not one of your rights. Having these bump stocks and conversion kits off the market except for those entitled to posses fully automatic weaponry is not an erosion of your Second Amendment rights as they exist today.
I’m not the only one coming around to this distasteful conclusion. Over at Red State, Patterico is advising everyone to get their bump stocks while they can, because they’ll likely be going the way of the dodo bird soon.
I am a Second Amendment supporter, but in talking to other Second Amendment supporters over the past day or so, I have found nobody who is furiously opposed to banning these devices.
The concern will always be that the left will come after more and more guns. They’ll want to take all semi-automatic firearms, for example.
Well, they will try. And we won’t let them.
But I don’t see the big problem in getting rid of a device that allows a shooter to turn a semi-automatic weapon into the functional equivalent of an automatic weapon. Automatic weapons are already banned, with minor exceptions. Nobody seems to have a big problem with that. I don’t.
That pretty much sums it up. And yes, I’m well aware that I’m about to be labeled a traitor to the cause, someone who “caved” and all the rest of the usual commentary. So be it. But in this case, I don’t see a rational argument to oppose getting rid of conversion kits and bump stocks for the general public. So light up the torches and bring on your rebuttals. We may as well debate it among ourselves before we begin the debate with the gun-grabbing crowd.