“bump stock” is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun
Vault store and shooting range Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in South
Jordan, Utah.Associated Press/Rick
In the wake of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas,
lawmakers and gun-control advocates have turned their focus
toward a little-known but powerful device police say the gunman
used on his weapons: the “bump stock.”
Authorities say the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen
Paddock, had affixed bump stocks to at least 12 of the 23
firearms they later recovered from his room. The weapons were
used to gun down a crowd of concertgoers,
ultimately leaving 58 people dead.
The bump stock devices gave his weapons rapid-fire
capabilities — a speed that would otherwise be impossible for
his semi-automatic rifles to achieve.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is a bump stock?
A bump stock is a device that can be legally purchased and
installed onto semi-automatic firearms, such as AR-15, AK-47, and
Saiga models, replacing the rifles’ standard stocks.
Unlike automatic firearms, which fire continuously while the
trigger is pulled, semi-automatic weapons fire one round per
trigger-pull. The bump stock harnesses the recoil energy produced
when a shot is fired from a semi-automatic rifle, and it “bumps”
the weapon back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and
Since the shooter’s finger is still pulling the trigger for
each shot, the firearm technically remains a semi-automatic,
even as it achieves a rate of fire similar to that
produced by an automatic.
Watch the way the rifle rapidly slides back and forth:
Bump stocks typically consist of two main parts: a block that
replaces the pistol grip, and a hollow shoulder stock installed
over the rear of the rifle, fitting with a sliding-stock
buffer-tube assembly, according to a review by the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Here’s what one bump stock
model looks like before it’s installed onto an AR-15:
When and why were they created?
Bump stocks are a relatively recent product, and were only
cleared as legal devices by the federal government in 2010.
The founder of Slide Fire, the most prominent bump stock
manufacturer, has previously said he created the devices to
simulate automatic fire, and that his product was meant for
“A friend and I were out shooting one day and we weren’t able to
fire as fast as we wanted,” Jeremiah Cottle told The Albany News in
2011. “We couldn’t afford what we wanted — a fully automatic
rifle — so I started to think about how I could make something
that would work and be affordable.”
Slide Fire launched online sales in late 2010 and hit immediate
success, blowing past their annual sales goal in the first week,
Cottle told the newspaper.
Prior to its launch, Slide Fire had requested an evaluation of
the bump stock from the Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF
bureau. In its request, the company appears to have told the
bureau the devices were intended for people with disabilities.
A responding letter signed by
the FTB chief said that the company’s initial request had
described the purpose of the bump stock as “to assist persons
whose hands have limited mobility to “bump-fire’ an AR-15 type
The letter continued:
“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or
springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when
installed. In order to use the installed device, the shooter must
apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and
constant rearward pressure with the shooting
hand. Accordingly, we find that the ‘bump-stock’ is a
firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under Gun Control
Act or the National Firearms Act.”
When asked by reporters why the devices had been cleared by the
ATF, spokeswoman Jill Snyder said the bureau had previously
determined that bump stocks do not mechanically alter the
function of rifles or convert them into automatic weapons.
“Bump-fire stocks, while simulating automatic fire, do not
actually alter the firearm to fire automatically, making them
legal under current federal law,” Snyder said.
What will happen in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting?
instructor Frankie McRae aims an AR-15 rifle fitted with a “bump
stock” at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., on Wednesday,
Oct. 4, 2017.Associated Press/Allen
Lawmakers have already introduced bills to ban the sale of bump
stocks, and it’s a move that appears to have some bipartisan
support, unlike many gun control proposals in the past.
House Speaker Paul
Ryan told MSNBC on Thursday that a ban on bump stocks was
clearly “something we need to look into,” and Republican senators
such as Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Cornyn of Texas
have both come out in
support of debate on a possible ban, as has Republican
Rep. Bill Flores of Texas.
“There’s no reason for a typical gun owner to own anything that
converts a semiautomatic to something that behaves like an
automatic,” Flores told The
The National Rifle Association on Thursday also suggested it
would be open to new
regulations on bump stocks, calling for a federal review of
the device by the ATF.
Several politicians have said in recent days they were unaware such devices
even existed, and Kellyanne Conway, top counselor to
President Donald Trump, lambasted the Obama
administration for having approved the devices in the first
“This is a device that Obama’s ATF decided would not be regulated
in 2010, and I think that’s an important part of this
conversation,” she said on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday
Consumers also appear to be stocking up on the devices out of
fear they’ll soon be outlawed, as has been the case after
previous mass shootings. Many gun retailers appear to have
already sold out of bump
stocks in the days following the Las Vegas shooting.
Even Slide Fire has suspended new orders on their website “in
order to provide the best service with those already placed.”