Guns and Common Sense: Why the Bump Stock is Not Such a Slippery Slope

VIEW FROM THE CENTER-Platitudes, platitudes everywhere abound on guns. They're becoming as "Americlique" as apple pie. Here's a quick couple from the Right: "All they want to do is take away our guns!" 

We also hear, "What a bunch of snowflakes..." On the other side we get, "All they're about is God, GUNS, and glory." And of course, "Bunch of gun nuts, all in bed with the NRA...." Certainly, these generalizations don't help us move forward, individually, locally, or nationally. Perhaps we can transcend some mainstream verbal vomit, and look toward some focused, centered insight on this issue. The nation can use it. Such is the hope of this article. 

Allow me to discuss three terms, whose definitions are sometimes misused.  

Automatic Weapon: This weapon fires multiple rounds with only one pull of the trigger. As long as the trigger is pressed, rounds rapidly shoot out (the "rat-tat-tat" sound). This is also called "military grade", and is ILLEGAL to the public, and hard to get from the black market. (There are rare cases where citizens can acquire them, through a long process and many checks.) 

Semi-Automatic Weapon: It fires a single round with each action of the trigger. Although this action is NOT “rapid fire” like automatics, an experienced shooter (may be a "good guy"...or a "bad guy") can fire these guns very quickly as well. 

Assault Weapon: It does not exist in gun nomenclature. Typically, non-gun folks have referred to firearms that generally look scary, or military-style, as assault weapons. In truth, anything, whether a gun, knife, wooden baton, pipe, etc. could be considered an assault weapon if it's used to physically maim or kill another living thing. 

"Ban all guns!" 

This is often the rallying cry we hear from Left-leaning folks. To which the Right knee-jerks the proverbial, "Guns don't kill people. People do." We also hear the dubious analogy that if we ban guns, we have to ban cars, for they too, cause, death and injury, as do pressure cookers, hammers, knives, ad infinitum.) Still, guns are different in a big way: utility. A car is made for transportation, pressure cookers are made for pressure cooking, a knife's purpose is cutting. Ultimately, guns are made for maiming or killing, as well as for protection, by way of threat of maiming or killing. 

I see the point of the meme, "Guns don't kill people. People do." However, I don't buy it 100% and here's why. This is slightly technical, but if someone is shot with a firearm, there exists another person doing the shooting, so for the event to happen, clearly a person (shooter) is necessary. However, that is not all that is needed in the event. The gun, itself, must also be used, if this happening takes place. Although the gun does not "shoot itself,” the last action of the event, the round piercing the target, is the direct effect of the gun. One can say with certainty that the gun is just as important in the shooting as the shooter. 

Not an Amendment Hater 

For the record, I support the 2nd Amendment. I support all the amendments. In fact, many lives have been saved by guns. How? Consider the recent event during which two very brave guards shot and killed the rampaging gunman in Arlington, VA at the annual Congressional Baseball Event. Some were injured, none died. However, if the shooter had not been taken down quickly, who knows how many Congress members would have died; it could've been another bloodbath. Furthermore, there is compelling evidence suggesting "concealed carry" laws reduce murder rates in many states. For example, in the economist John Lott's exhaustive research we see FBI reports clearly showing the homicide rate in Florida, which in 1987 was much higher than national average, fall 52% during the 15-year period of "concealed carry" law. (Note: Opponents argue causation vs. correlation.) 

Why Ban Anything? 

"If evil people want to do evil things, they will find a way to do it." Since this horrible Las Vegas shooting, that is often debated on talk shows, which brings us to a new common term as of the past week: “bump stocks” -- which the Vegas shooter allegedly used. They are legal devises one can attach to legal semi-automatic firearms, enabling them to fire like an illegal rapid-fire, automatic firearm. Not good. And sit down for this one: who approved it? The Obama administration gave the green light! Why? Its purpose was to enable the physically disabled to fire their guns more easily. I don't mean to sound "anti-disabled" or "disabled-phobic", but if I -- yes, I -- were physically disabled, I absolutely would understand why other citizens might not want me using something that can cause so much death in so few seconds. I think, I hope, the arc of common sense would come out ahead on this argument. 

Last week, I had the fortunate opportunity to share my views on the Mark Levine Radio Show. (By the way, Plunder and Deceit is a great read for any Constitution fans.) Our exchange was similar to the following: (Note -- these are not direct quotes.) 

I asked: "Mark, why not ban the bump stock? Even the NRA is looking into it. Do we really need an attachment to make a gun basically act like an automatic killing machine?" 

His reply: "Sure, fine, ban it. But evil people who want to do evil things...will still find another way to do them." 

I replied: "True, but if it saves one life isn't it worth it?" 

He answered: "Yes, but this is not going to stop mass shootings, and will just send us down a slippery slope, which Pelosi admittedly says she wants." 

I said: "But then why ban anything? If bad people are gonna find ways to do bad things anyway, why not, for the good folks' sake, legalize flame throwers, grenades, tanks, and so on?" 

He replied: "Good point, but are we going to take this to absurdity by asking why not allow people to have their own nukes? Of course not." 

Still, I firmly maintain a very "common sense" thing we can do is the discontinuation of this device that enables a legal firearm to easily morph into a “personal weapon of mass destruction” (i.e., Las Vegas). While in no way eroding the 2nd Amendment, this action will lessen the amount of potential future mass carnage. Think about this: which is the lesser of two evils -- a semi-automatic firing 20 rounds at one time, or the same "bump stocked" semi-automatic firing perhaps 40 rounds in the same amount of time?  

How Slippery? 

However, one elephant in the room remains. What about that "slippery slope?” If we ban this, as the fear goes, then the banning does not stop, and eventually there will be no more 2nd Amendment. Well, as we have witnessed, these massacres, although infrequent, seem deadlier, more sophisticated and more intense since the Bill of Rights was enshrined. To me, this is evidence the "slippery slope" is not that slippery. In fact, gun culture seems to have moved up the slope, not down, since the Constitution's infancy. When the 2nd Amendment was written, we must remember, the Founding Fathers' idea of "rapid fire" was how quickly one could prepare a musket for the next shot, not necessarily how many rounds could rain down from a 32-story hotel window onto an unsuspecting crowd. Alas, for better or for worse, we've come a long, long way since what the founders envisioned. 


(Kevin J. Suscavage has written about politics on both sides of the aisle. He was involved with Patty Lopez’ successful CA Assembly campaign in 2014.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.