Among the 23 guns found along with Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock’s body in his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, some were semi-automatic rifles modified to fire almost as fast as an automatic weapon using an accessory called a bump stock.
The rate of fire with which Paddock rained down terror on country music concertgoers last Sunday, killing 59 people and wounding hundreds of others, suggests that at least one of Paddock’s weapons had rapid-fire capabilities, according to firearms experts.
And while machine guns are heavily regulated by state and federal law, bump stocks are one of several methods used to modify semi-automatic weapons to fire at a nearly automatic rate. The modifications are perfectly legal in both Nevada and Ohio.
Turning a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon is a felony. However, the modifications are legal because the gun still only fires once every time the trigger is pulled. By speeding up the rate at which the trigger is pulled, the bump stock mimics the rapid-fire capabilities of an automatic weapon without being fully automatic.
Gun control activists say these modifications should be illegal. Some of the devices are banned in other states and a Democratic proposal has been put forward to regulate them federally, which some Republicans said they are open to considering. But gun rights activists are pushing back against any knee-jerk response to Sunday’s tragedy.