For a generation, Republicans in Congress — often joined by conservative Democrats — have bottled up gun legislation, even as the carnage of mass shootings grew ever more gruesome and the weaponry ever more deadly. A decade ago, they blocked efforts to limit the size of magazines after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Five years later, Republican leaders thwarted bipartisan legislation to expand background checks of gun purchasers after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Though the firing rate with a bump stock allows for prolonged bursts, they don’t make the guns fire any faster. With no modification at all, many of these weapons can fire at rates exceeding 10 shots per second. All it takes is a flutter of one finger. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub featured semi-automatic weapons with large magazines, but did not include a kit to convert the primary weapon used to automatic fire.
The weapon used in most of the deaths at Pulse was a Sig Sauer MCX, a $2000, .223-caliber rifle with a firing rate of 927 rounds per minute — 15 shots a second. All that was required was a finger that could keep up. That means the Sig can discharge the contents of its standard 30 round magazine in two seconds. Swapping out an expended magazine also takes about two seconds.
Bump stocks don’t make semi-automatic weapons more deadly, though it may be argued that they make delivering rounds slightly easier. The question now is whether the NRA and other organizations representing gun manufacturers will allow Republicans to even hint that it’s appropriate to address gun massacres by doing anything about guns.
“Given the spinelessness of so many of the Republican caucus, the best thing would be to get the leadership not to let it come up,” Larry Pratt, co-founder and executive director emeritus of the Gun Owners of America, said in an interview with NBC. “If it comes to a vote, they are going to be held accountable.”
Some Republicans have already gotten the message.
“I’m a Second Amendment man,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “I’m not for any gun control.”
Outlawing bump stocks alone would do nothing to improve gun sanity. Which only makes it more insane that even that pointless gesture is unlikely to pass a vote.
Because voting against anything, no matter how obvious, is admitting that there should be some limits on the destructive power an individual should be able to wield against other citizens. And that’s something that the Republican’s bosses just can’t have.