HOUSE REPUBLICANS have said they might be open to legislation that would ban the type of firearm accessory that enabled the Las Vegas killer to fire his semiautomatic rifles as rapidly as machine guns. Given Congress’s decades-long refusal to adopt any type of gun control, any step in the right direction probably should be encouraged. But lawmakers are kidding themselves — and not serving the public interest — if they think this gesture is enough to stem the weapons that make the United States an outlier for gun violence.
The revelation that the man responsible for Sunday’s massacre of at least 58 people used “bump stocks” to transform his weapons prompted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to revive a push to ban the devices. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) both said Thursday that lawmakers will consider the measure. Even the National Rifle Association acknowledged the devices should be subject to regulation. Automatic weapons are illegal or heavily restricted, so how does it make sense to allow a device the main purpose of which is to circumvent those rules?
But an even better question is why focus solely on bump stocks — “a goofy little doodad,” in the words of a former firearms official — while ignoring the danger posed when people are allowed to purchase and possess assault-style weapons that were designed for war, with the capacity to kill in large numbers. Citing the rising number of mass shootings as a “serious public health issue,” the American College of Physicians on Monday called for a ban on automatic and semiautomatic weapons.
Little wonder that doctors would be opposed to these weapons; they know better than anyone the devastation to human flesh and bones. “If you’re struck in the liver with an AR-15, it would be like dropping a watermelon onto the cement. It just is disintegrated,” Denver Health trauma surgeon Ernest E. Moore told Post reporters who interviewed Las Vegas medical personnel who were rattled by battlefield-type wounds.
It’s little wonder that assault-style rifles have emerged as a weapon of choice for mass shooters. Not only are they capable of firing many rounds of ammunition in a relatively short period of time, but a shooter doesn’t have to be particularly adept to do great damage. Semiautomatic guns were used in the slaughter of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School, at the cinema in Aurora, Colo., and at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Assault weapons were outlawed in 1994, but the ban expired in 2004, and Congress opted not to renew it. That Ms. Feinstein narrowly tailored her bill to something even the national gun lobby won’t oppose suggests there is still not the political will to get these weapons off the streets or to explore other possible solutions.
When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked if the bill banning bump stocks might be a slippery slope toward other gun restrictions, she answered, “I certainly hope so.” To which we say, amen.
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