The psychopath who killed 58 concertgoers and wounded over 520 more at the Route 91 country music festival in Las Vegas was able to turn legally-obtained rifles into fully-automatic weapons with a simple addition: the bump stock.
In a surprise move, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has called for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms "to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law."
But there's at least one theory why the normally regulation-averse gun rights group is signaling it would be fine with a crackdown on bump stocks. CNN's Chris Cillizza believes this is a "strategic" move by the NRA. The point, according to Cillizza, is deflection:
The NRA, as has been revealed through its many legislative victories on gun matters over the years, is not dumb. And the group's decision to be for further regulation of bump stocks is clearly a strategic move aimed at avoiding any more sweeping or comprehensive attempts at gun control.
Maybe the NRA is also motivated by genuine belief that bump stocks are a bad thing and need to be more regulated. But an organization as politically aware of itself as the NRA is never not keeping an eye on its politics.
Cillizza goes on to note that the NRA makes their request to the ATF, not congress—meaning that if the agency addresses the question of bump stock legality, then the 535 members of congress will not need to.
This would protect the NRA and gun lobbyists from legislation that might enact more stringent controls on such add-ons, or even on weaponry itself.
The other reason for the NRA's move may well be that it allows them to seem proactive in addressing the issue. If the organization calls for specific attention to bump stocks, they can say they've made a positive move without actually affecting the issues most important to them.
"The status quo," Cillizza writes, "is just fine with" the NRA.
Will the NRA succeed in blunting further public debate about semi-automatic weapons with this move, as Cillizza suspects?
We'll have to wait and see. At the moment, many retailers have gone ahead and removed bump stocks from their online stores, regardless of federal intervention or legislation.
There are plenty of bump stocks still out there. Regardless of what happens with them and the NRA's motivations for their statement, let's hope they're not put to such horrific use again.