Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bump Fire Ban

Important details about the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival massacre will be emerging for some time. Already we appear to be involved in some kind of ideological trench warfare. The talking points on all sides of gun control arguments have been dusted off. The paranoid elements of the right have concocted a bunch of disgusting conspiracy theories. People who simply care but do not want to devote their lives to whatever flavor of “the cause” can feel their eyes beginning to glaze over.

This was so significant a tragedy that the stalemate might be broken, but I doubt it. I certainly cannot wade into the fray and make a brand new perfect argument about any of the big issues. I think there are good arguments, but I am not going to repeat them here in order to sound intensely moral. Would any of you readers believe me if I did? Didn’t think so.

There was one thing about the massacre that caught my attention, and I thought it would be worthwhile to put in a plea for a limited set of social action that would yield real but limited results.

I think we should call for a federal ban on “bump fire” (aka “slide fire”) modifications to semi-automatic firearms. Specifically, I think we should call for a ban on “any modification to a firearm whose purpose is to allow the firearm to be operated in a way that is or mimics fully automatic or burst fire action”. Fully automatic or burst fire action firearms are tightly controlled by federal law, and modifications that make a firearm operate in ways that closely mimic that action are objectively designed to circumvent well established federal law.

Stephen Paddock used a “bump fire” device to operate semi-automatic rifles continuously at rates that could have surpassed 900 rounds per minute. This is many times the rate typically clocked for standard semi-automatic fire. This contributed greatly to his ability to cause damage and panic.

The “bump fire” device is viewed by many firearm owners as a toy. It is an overpriced at $50.00 attachment that provides little in the way of enhancement to the $1,000.00 rifle it is designed to attach to. People by them because firing a “bump fire” equipped rifle almost feels like one is firing a real machine gun. Even the mindset needed to consider it is one where the firearm is viewed as a toy where the “bump fire” modification provides more kicks and giggles. What should have been obvious long before Las Vegas was that, no matter how many toy-like gadgets you attach to a gun, a firearm is not a toy.

The “bump fire” style modification kit essentially provides a sliding stock with a spring at the back. Unlike standard stocks that are designed to hold the firearm securely so that a target can be accurately acquired the “bump fire” stock allows the firearm to loosely slide back and forth. When a round is fired from the rifle the recoil pushes it back into the “bump fire” stock where it compresses a spring. When the rifle slides back into the “bump fire” stock the trigger is moved backwards away from the trigger finger. When the spring pushes the rifle forward the trigger on the rifle is brought back into contact with the trigger finger resting on the “bump fire” stock and the trigger is pulled which fires the rifle again. This allows the rifle to fire as fast as it can rattle back and forth in the “bump fire” stock. It really is that simple, but I made an animated GIF to illustrate it anyway.

Because a flesh and blood finger comes into contact with the trigger each time the rifle fires this was considered a legal loophole to the federal laws controlling fully automatic weapons. We should close that loophole now.


There is no reasonably argued reason why anyone needs to be able to spray bullets towards a target. This sort of device is inherently unsafe even when it is not in the hands of a madman.

We should be able to eliminate these devices from the marketplace without fighting the main battles of the gun control wars of ideology. Eliminating them will make America safer. If they were not available the number of dead and wounded in Las Vegas would have been less; perhaps a lot less.

This doesn’t solve all the problems, nor does it address many of the gun control issues. However, it is real and actionable good that can make a measurable difference. We should do this!

So… how do we do this?

Basically we call, write, or somehow communicate with our federal representatives (congress: House and Senate) and ask them to plug this loophole in federal law.

Here is how to find contact information for your senators:

Here is how to find contact information for your congressman:

Simply asking them to write or support legislation that closes the “bump fire” loophole should be enough. If they want you to spell it out for them perhaps you could say something like “ban any modification to a firearm whose purpose is to allow the firearm to be operated in a way that is or mimics fully automatic or burst fire action”. Feel free to use or distribute the GIF I made if that helps make things clear.


Anonymous said...

Liberals love to ban anything that will not stop crime. Banning these things will not stop anything nor will it stop anyone from just making a homemade version which their are many videos each with tens of thousands of views on how DIY bump fire stocks.

adult onset atheist said...

First of all the only reason there is any market for “bump fire” devices is that the federal laws controlling fully automatic weapons is working. The laws worked in Las Vegas where the shooter used the “bump fire” devices instead of fully automatic weapons because of the law((s). “Bump fire” devices are POS modifications for otherwise effective weapons. They are toy-like additions that reduce the tactical value of a weapon and whose only design purpose is to circumvent federal law to make the weapons spray bullets in a Hollywood-like approximation of a fully automatic action. They reduce accuracy significantly, and turn a tack-driving rifle into an indiscriminant bullet hose. If someone attempted to use the device for personal protection the likelihood of collateral damage by stray bullets is significant. The “bump fire” devices reduce the usefulness of a riffle until its only responsible use by a gun owner is as a range toy, but a gun is never just a toy, and the bullets that spray out of a “bump fire” modified rifle are just as deadly as those shot from a reasonably controllable gun. The Las Vegas shooter realized that the “bump fire” device would assist him in his purpose, which was to indiscriminately fire into a crowd of unarmed concert goers in the hope of killing as many as he could.

Banning “bump fire” devices is not about stopping all crime. It is about trading the availability of a rather useless range toy for a country where the availability of these modifications is greatly reduced. If making “bump fire” modifications illegal forces some people who “need” fully automatic weapons to do safer more permanent modifications to make their weapons fully auto I think a “bump fire” ban would still be worthwhile.

If your underlying argument is that people should be able to have machine guns if they want them then I would argue that even if we should ever allow machine guns again that those machine guns should be as safe as possible. They should allow the shooter to aim the gun with a reasonable level of accuracy. They shouldn’t fire unless the shooter wants the gun to fire. Reasonable steps should be taken to prevent the gun from operating while dangerously overheated. The second amendment doesn’t create a right to be stupid with how guns are modified.

Anonymous said...

People have been bump firing without these stocks for years even before the came out what are they gonna ban my finger

adult onset atheist said...

Depending on where your finger has been, and what you are doing with it now, it may already be illegal.

Anonymous said...

There is no spring in bump fire devices. The Akins accelerator had springs and was deemed a machine gun conversion device by the ATF.