Washington just got a step closer to banning bump stocks, devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into illegal automatic-style weapons.
Last week the Senate Law and Justice Committee wisely approved Senate Bill 5992, which outlaws deadly conversion kits like the one used in October’s Las Vegas mass shooting.
The 2018 legislative session was barely into its second week when five gun-related proposals made it to committee attention, a clear sign of partisan sea change.
Democrats’ slim majorities in the House and Senate leave little room for swagger, but they wasted no time bringing forth gun-related measures on safe storage, enhanced background checks for assault weapon purchases, and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, all of which face uphill climbs to passage.
The bump stock ban is a good place to start. It even found a pair of gutsy Republican co-sponsors (Hans Zeiger of Puyallup and Joe Fain of Auburn), although some rural Dems have said they’ll vote against it once it hits the floor.
At a press conference for Republican leaders, Sen. Jan Angel of Port Orchard voiced disappointment with the proposal. “Are we going to make laws for every single person in Washington based on what a bad person did?”
It’s like asking if we want to implement positive train control because of one fatal Amtrak derailment near DuPont. The answer is yes.
The “bad person” Angel referred to was Stephen Paddock, who fired more than 1,000 rounds into a crowd of Las Vegas concert goers, leaving 59 people dead and more than 500 injured. Bump stocks made the massacre possible, harnessing a gun’s natural recoil to let Paddock fire at an unnaturally fast rate.
Gov. Jay Inslee summed it up well after the Vegas killing spree: “We must make sure people intent on causing mass destruction and loss of life won’t be aided by lax laws that give unfettered access to military-style weapons.”
Republican Sen. Mike Padden called the Las Vegas shooting “horrific,” but said improving mental health programs is the best way to prevent similar tragedies.
The two are not mutually exclusive, however, and sensible gun control costs a whole lot less. Both avenues should be pursued vigorously.
Bump stocks were originally designed to assist people whose hands have limited mobility, but today they’re more about rapid-fire shooting-range bravado for perfectly healthy gun enthusiasts.
Regardless, if they turn weapons into machine guns, they’re subverting federal law. Machine guns have been illegal since 1986.
The Supreme Court has ruled that gun rights are subject to reasonable restrictions, and even staunch Second Amendment champions agree lines must be drawn. Citizens don’t have a constitutional right to backyard anti-aircraft missiles or rotary cannons that spray 1,000 rounds per minute.
Federal standards would put an end to Washington’s bump stock debate, but as usual, after flags stop flying at half-staff, political will for any kind of national/rational gun regulation dissipates.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have initiated a rule review to decide if bump stocks count as machine guns.
We credit state legislators for not waiting for the feds to act. If SB5992 passes, Washington will join California, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which already banned bump stocks. Several other states are introducing similar bills in 2018.
After a series of mass shootings including Las Vegas, Newtown, Orlando and Mukilteo, Americans made it clear that hand-wringing and heartfelt sympathies no longer suffice. They’re looking for laws to be changed.
Granted, no law is failsafe. A quick Google search leads to hundreds of DIY tutorials for trigger modifications.
No law is going to prevent every random whack-job from conspiring and committing a heinous act. But right now a person could buy a bump stock on the internet for about $200. Allowing easy access to any kind of military-spec weapons is irresponsible.
Any law that puts a barrier between just one assassin and a potential mass murder is worth fighting for.