Washington • An overwhelming number of Utahns want Congress to ban so-called bump stocks like those used in the recent Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people and injured more than 500, a new poll shows.
Some 69 percent of surveyed Utahns — including majorities across party, ideology, religion and education-level lines — say they want a law to prohibit the devices that can allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire more rounds more quickly, according to The Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll. The Las Vegas shooter had rigged multiple rifles with bump stocks, allowing him to spray bullets into the crowd.
“There’s really no good use for them other than turning them into an automatic weapon,” said Liz Garcia-Leavitt, who lives in Millcreek and whose sister, Ariana Kunin-Leavitt, was at the Las Vegas concert and escaped unharmed from the shooting. “I don’t think we need to give people more tools of mass destruction.”
On Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire from his 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay into a country music concert across the street, raining bullets into the crowd. Paddock killed himself as police approached.
The poll — conducted Oct. 10-13 — showed majorities of surveyed Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters backed congressional action to outlaw bump stocks, which were approved by the federal government for use in 2010. Democrats supported the ban by a large margin, with only 6 percent saying they shouldn’t be barred.
Some 54 percent of all voters polled said they strongly supported the prohibition, with 15 percent saying they should probably be banned. About 17 percent said they should probably not or definitely not be outlawed.
The National Rifle Association came out after the shooting to say that it wants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions to review whether the bump stocks comply with federal law, a rare move for the nation’s largest and most powerful gun lobby that fiercely fights for Second Amendment Rights.
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the group said in a statement.
Tossing the issue to the ATF, however, would save members of Congress from having to vote on a ban.
The White House has signaled it is open to such a ban, with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying a review of bump stocks would be “certainly welcome.”
Most of Utah’s congressional delegation have said they are open to banning bump stocks.
But Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council and one of Utah’s staunchest gun-rights advocates, says the poll question was misleading in asking about a bump stock that “allows semi-automatic rifles to operate like automatic rifles.”
He says that’s not the case, and such action is illegal. Aposhian says a bump stock makes it easier to fire rounds more quickly but does not make a gun automatic.
That said, Aposhian — who owns a bump stock — says he opposes a ban because, with the exception of the Las Vegas shooting, there hasn’t been any pattern of abuse with the devices and cracking down on them isn’t a solution to gun crime. He prefers a focus on mental health.
“I can’t come up with a functionally legitimate reason to have them,” Aposhian said. “However, neither can somebody for water skiing or ATV riding, just out on the dunes; it’s a thrill. And as long everybody is serious and not harming anybody and not breaking any laws and has been told by the ATF that these are perfectly legal and not a machine gun, then why are we looking to ban that? One, it won’t fix a problem and, two, it will take the attention off where the problems are.”
Several pieces of legislation have been introduced into Congress to bar the sale of bump stocks, though no hearings have been slated.
The poll, conducted among 605 registered Utah voters by Dan Jones & Associates, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percentage points.