Special Report: Understanding firepower, uncovering bump stocks

It's been more than a month since the Las Vegas shooting and "bump stocks" are more popular than ever. A bump stock is the device the shooter used to make his semi-automatic weapon operate like a fully-automatic one.

Posted: Nov 21, 2017 6:00 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2017 7:44 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — It's been more than a month since the Las Vegas shooting and "bump stocks" are more popular than ever. A bump stock is the device the shooter used to make his semi-automatic weapon operate like a fully-automatic one.

They're also a topic that Congress has yet to take any action on.

The Las Vegas shooter used 12 bump stocks when he shot at a crowd of concert-goers. More than 58 people were killed, making it the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Bump stock vendors suspended the device after the shooting, but now they're back on the shelves and some have even made their way to Lafayette.

For years, Emergency Response Gear in Lafayette had no requests for a bump stock.

"We had them several years ago and there were few people who were interested in them," said Emergency Response Gear Co-Owner Joy Rhode.

That is until Stephen Paddock opened fire into a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas in October. Paddock was able to fire extremely fast because of a bump stock. It transforms a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon capable of firing hundreds of rounds a minute.

Rhode said dozens of customers wanted to get their hands on bump stocks fearing they'd be banned.

"The day after, people were asking immediately about them, wanting to know if we could get them," said Rhode. "Very difficult to get."

Some just wanted to buy them to re-sell.

"When it first happened, people who were coming through our doors said they had tried everywhere," said Rhode. "We were just one of the places on the list that they were trying to find a bump stock and that they weren't able to find them anywhere."

As of now, the tool is legal and background checks are not required to purchase one.

"It's a fad thing," said Larry Hughes. "I don't see it much more than just a novelty. But I figure I might as well have one."

Some hobbyists including Hughes said the tool is nothing more than a range toy. Hugh owns two bump stocks.

"As you can see, here is an AR-15 with a bump stock and we're still alive," said Hughes. "So it's not out there killing people like some of the media would lead you to be believe. It's just an accessory."

The bump stock causes the firearm to bounce and "bump" rapidly against the shooter's trigger finger.

"It's the easiest way to play with something that simulates full automatic without spending the money on a full-automatic weapon," said Hughes.

The unpredictability of a bump stock is why they're not used within law enforcement and in the military.

"The biggest concern that I would have about them is an officer's ability to control the weapon," said Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly. "As law enforcement officers, we're responsible for every round that's discharged from our firearm. So, you need to be accountable for it. That's why we do even limit access to those types of automatic firearms within law enforcement."

Because the device is hard to control, Flannelly said the risks of the device outweigh any benefits.

"I don't see any legitimate purpose for why a civilian would need a bump stock," said Flannelly.

"They should be banned across the country," said Kathy Parker.

Parker has been fighting for stricter gun laws for years.

"Ever since Columbine, I thought what in the world? How can this happen," said Parker." I've always been interested in it. But when Moms Demand Action started, I thought this is a group that is actually going to do things."

Now a long-time member of Moms Demand Action, Parker is demanding more restrictions on guns and accessories like the bump stock.

"It looks like those might be banned eventually," said Parker. "The NRA doesn't seem to really support them but they also aren't really making big noises against them either."

Whether you're for or against bump stocks, it seems to be a topic that's not going away anytime soon. Rhode said there will still most likely be a demand for them.

"Whether or not it's because of what happened that day or what, it's happening in our own community," said Rhode.

Right after the Las Vegas mass shooting, lawmakers from both parties called for a crackdown of bump stocks. A bill was authored in the Senate banning bump stocks, but there has been no action. However, recently Massachusetts passed a law banning them.

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