A bump stock, you probably can't help but know by now, is a special rifle attachment that harnesses the natural recoil of a semi-automatic weapon to repeatedly "bump" up against the shooters trigger finger, dramatically increasing the rate of fire.
Last Saturday the device was an obscure novelty, dismissively regarded in gun circles. The next day it was a prime suspect in the killing of 59 people, and injuring of over 500 more in Las Vegas, Nevada. By midweek, bump stocks were the bullseye of our repetitive shooting match over gun control.
Finally, Democrats like Sen. Diane Feinstein (D – Calif.), who had introduced a failed bill to ban them in 2013, and Republicans found something in this debate they could agree upon. Not previously knowing what they were almost seemed to provide a rationale for supporting a ban.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R – Wis.) said Thursday, "I didn't even know what they were until this week, and I'm an avid sportsman. Apparently, this allows you to take a semiautomatic and turn it into a fully automatic, so clearly that's something we need to look into." Rep. Bill Flores (R – Texas), a gun-owner, told The Hill, "now that I've studied up on what a bump stock is — I didn't know there was such a thing — there's no reason for it."
Predictably, talk of a ban has made bump stocks one of America's fastest selling gun accessories. "Oh, God, yes, it's been insane," one Texas gun store owner told CNN Money. "Since this story has broke, we've been getting about 50 people a day asking for them." Another from Maine said that he had five bump stocks gathering dust for months, before a post-Vegas buying spree saw them all snatched them up.
The buying blitz has overwhelmed bump stock manufacturer Slide Fire Solutions. Operating out of the tiny town of Moran, Texas (pop. 270), Slide Fire has done steady business since founder Jeremiah Cottle first set up shop in 2010. A post-Vegas surge in demand, however, has forced the company to suspend taking new orders. If the political winds keeping blowing the way they do, Slide Fire might never take any new orders.
No one seems more mystified by the sudden enthusiasm for bump stocks—from both gun nuts and gun grabbers—than gun store owners. Because bump stocks sacrifice accuracy for speed hunters, sportsmen, and most other enthusiasts have little need for them, some experts say.
"I've always thought these bump stocks were just a novelty," Andrew Wickerham, owner of the 2nd Amendment Gun Shop in Las Vegas, told The Christian Science Monitor. "They're not that good, and they're hard as hell to control."
"I will order them if someone wants one, but I highly discourage them from purchasing. It's not safe, they don't work, and it's a gimmick," Tallahassee gun retailer Will Dance told CNN Money.
Even with the sudden sales surge, the rarity of the devices raises the question of the real impact of a ban, other than to allow for some bipartisan political posturing. Banning bump stocks is something that can be done without pissing too many people off, placating the crowd that after every shooting in America screams for somebody to do something.
This sort of logic is only questionable outside of politics.
Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom