Getting Serious: Automatic and Semi-Automatic Weapons
When the NRA announced this past week support for the restriction of “bump stocks” – a device that enables a semi-automatic rifle which can only fire one bullet per trigger pull to convert to the firing speed of a fully automatic rifle – people took notice because the NRA rarely, if ever gets behind the restriction of any firearm. Did the gunning down of hundreds of people attending a concert in Las Vegas by a mad gunman who used bump stocks on a dozen rifles make the NRA realize how insanely easy it is for lunatics to be able to convert semi-automatic rifles into rapid fire weapons? Yes and no.
To understand the difference between an automatic and semi-automatic weapon, consider the M-16 and the AR-15. The M-16 is fully automatic while the AR-15 is the civilian equivalent: a semi-automatic rifle that can easily be converted to automatic with a bump stock or “machine-shop prowess.”* (read “Stop Saying AR-15’s Are Not Assault Rifles” by Kelly Scarletta for a more detailed explanation of automatic versus semi-automatic rifles.)
Wayne LePierre (CEO and Executive of the NRA) and Chris Cox, (Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action) who were compensated $5.1 million and $1.5 million, respectively in 2015 (as reported on the IRS Form 990) issued a joint statement this week that said:
The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations…
but – and this is a big but – they also said in the same statement:
…we urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence.
Please tell me how anyone carrying a concealed weapon at the concert in Las Vegas could have protected themselves and their families from the gunman firing on the crowd with semi-automatic rifles that had been outfitted with bump stocks to produce automatic fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel and Casino?
The NRA knows they are on the right side of public opinion when it comes to the right to bear firearms but on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to automatic weapons. Americans want their guns but they don’t want the madmen (literally in almost every case) to have automatic rifles. In the distorted gun culture of America, it’s one thing for a lone gunman (almost always a male under the age of 65) to kill a few people but quite another when a lone gunman can fire off hundreds of bullets in a few minutes, killing 58 and injuring hundreds. So, the NRA seized the moment to throw their support behind increased regulation of bump stocks to garner a more positive public image. That the NRA did not come out and support a ban of bump stocks is noteworthy. And, that the NRA linked bump stocks with proposed national right-to-carry legislation is manipulative if not shameful. They dangled a carrot to push forth what they really want: national right-to-carry legislation.
At first glance, the public may think the regulation of bump stocks will keep people from converting semi-automatic rifles into automatic rifles and it may stop some people but as Richard Parker, a journalist and writer wrote in Banning Bump Stocks Won’t Solve Anything, there are a number of ways to convert semi-automatic rifles to automatic rifles and “the sort of gun owners attracted to these sorts of weapons are often the ones with the patience and machine-shop prowess to give it a go.” Parker goes on to say:
The only solution, it seems, is to extend the ban on automatic weapons to include gas-powered, semiautomatic rifles that are merely modified versions of their military analogues. Semiautomatic pistols, which don’t meet that criteria and are hard to convert, would be unaffected, as would shotguns, bolt-action rifles and lever-action rifles.
If we simply don’t allow the public to have semi-automatic weapons (that can be converted), then we minimize the chance that some lunatic will spray hundreds of bullets into a crowd of people in minutes.
So, what can you do? Call or e-mail your congressman/woman and voice your opinion on banning bump stocks and extending the ban on automatic weapons to gas-powered (meaning weapons that use gas piston technology) semiautomatic weapons. Click here to find out who your representative is.
*see Banning Bump Stocks Won’t Solve Anything by Richard Parker