Reports coming out of Las Vegas -in the wake of the deadly attack on a country music festival Sunday night- indicate that the alleged shooter utilized at least one specialized stock to simulate automatic fire.
Though the investigation is ongoing and inconclusive at best, initial reports by what the Associated Press (and later, the Houston Chronicle) allegedly referred to as “two officials familiar with the investigation” claim that shooter Stephen Paddock -who killed around 59 people and wounded countless others- utilized a “bump stock” reportedly manufactured by SlideFire on at least two of his rifles.
For those who lack technical proficiency in firearms, a bump stock is a rifle stock that allows a more efficient way to perform “bump firing,” a practice that involves rapid manipulation of a semi-automatic rifle’s trigger through utilization of the weapon’s recoil.
While bump firing can be performed by simply loosening/tightening the grip on a rifle in certain spots (or even hooking one’s thumb around a belt loop, placing the thumb over the trigger and pulling the weapon forward), bump stocks like the SlideFire stock allow the trigger to be manipulated in a safer manner, without violating National Firearm Act laws that would classify aforementioned firearm as a tightly-regulate “automatic weapon.”
Generally considered a novelty item by serious firearms enthusiasts, bump stocks reduce accuracy, control and generally are considered a waste of ammunition, which has seen a climb in cost over recent years.
Bump Stocks were born from stringent regulation stemming from the 1986 amendment to the National Firearms Act, which bolstered effective prohibition of possession of automatic weapons by civilians and effectively banned the civilian sale of full-auto capabilities in weapons manufactured after 1986.
While fully automatic weapons can be purchased by civilians, doing so requires a sizeable amount of prerequisites, paperwork, taxation and consent to government intrusion of privacy- and that isn’t even taking into account that “Pre-’86” automatic weapons on the market start out at around the same cost as a new car.
As a result of this series of regulations, devices designed to skirt the NFA were born, such as the SlideFire bump stock, the Hellfire II trigger device and others.
While such devices can mimic automatic fire, they do not have the same capabilities of a full-auto firearm. For example, the rate of fire is rarely-if-ever consistent, and can often be aurally identified by the way the rate of fire “winds up,” becoming faster as the action catches up with the manipulation device.
While the gunfire heard in videos of the shooting lack this telltale and common trait, it is still uncertain if some of the weapons used by Paddock were or were not illegally converted to possess full-auto capabilities.
While media has been quick to jump on buzzwords such as “fully automatic,” “assault rifle” and “machine gun,” it is still too early to tell if the weapons used against a large and incredibly soft target (essentially a sea of people) from an elevated position were in fact “assault rifles” or “machine guns”- and it is incredibly irresponsible from a media standpoint to do so, particularly when accurate reporting counts.