A Utah legislator wants to ban sales – and possibly outlaw possession – of a mechanism that alters guns to allow a person using a semi-automatic firearm to shoot at a speed closer to that of automatic, rapid-fire weapons.
The so-called “bump stocks,” were used in this week’s Las Vegas mass shooting in which at least 58 people were killed and hundreds wounded.
The devices are legal, inexpensive and easily accessible.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said Friday he’s planning legislation that would ban the sale of bump stocks in the state of Utah, where machine guns produced before 1986 are legal to residents 18 years and older.
“My feeling would be certainly ban sales, but I think there’s a good argument to be made to ban the possession of them, too,” said King, an attorney.
The call for legislation comes five days after Stephen Paddock broke two windows on the 32nd floor of a hotel overlooking a country music festival and fired long-range rifles on thousands of concertgoers. Authorities said 12 of Paddock’s rifles contained bump stocks.
Most of Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegates agreed with calls to examine federal regulations on bump stocks after the mass shooting.
The National Rifle Association, the largest gun lobby in the nation, also released a statement calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to immediately review whether these types of devices comply with federal law.”
While there are supporters who suggest bump stocks should be more tightly regulated through legislation, there may be a fight against law changes.
Clark Aposhian, a gun lobbyist in Utah and chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, was on his way to Las Vegas on Friday to meet with gun-rights enthusiasts this weekend. He declined to discuss details.
Aposhian urged patience as investigators continued combing through the crime scene and searching for a possible motive.
“It’s premature,” Aposhian said. “There has been no pattern, when you define the word pattern in any way possible, there has been absolutely no abuse or misuse of these bump stocks.”
He also mirrored the NRA’s view, that ATF should review bump stocks again and see whether they should be regulated under existing federal laws. An ATF review in 2010 found they weren’t regulated.
Aposhian also scoffed at questions over the usefulness of a bump stock or other firearms.
“It doesn’t have to be to gain better accuracy. It doesn’t have to be for hunting,” he said. “Yeah, it’s a lot easier to get a lot of rounds downrange. People say, ‘That’s too scary, you can’t have that.’ Well show me in the last seven years how many times a bump stock has been used illegally.”
King says the use of the device in the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history, and the apparent increase in awareness of the device and its popularity in the days following the shooting, justifies a ban.
“I don‘t think we should wait for a pattern to emerge before we take common-sense action,” King said. “We do have a pattern in the number 58 or 59 [deaths], they all happen to be in Las Vegas in the last week.”