The National Rifle Association and its stalwarts in Congress realize they have no leg to stand on this time. And so, the likes of Sens. John Thune, John McCain and Tom Cotton are open to banning the cheap device that turns a semiautomatic death machine into a fully automatic death machine.
Applaud the change of heart. But do not rest until this low-hanging, lifesaving reform becomes law. Then, demand that this be only the beginning of the gun lobby and their zealots in Congress facing the fact that by their own newly admitted logic, other military-grade killing instruments have no business being in warm, live hands either.
“We need to look into” the legality of bump stocks is how Speaker of the House Paul Ryan puts it — which passes for a portrait in courage given the cowardice on display in the nearly five years since the child massacre at Sandy Hook, during which 1,715 people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded in mass shootings.
Duh. Stephen Paddock didn’t even have to bother pulling the damn trigger each time he wanted to fire a bullet. For 10 minutes, the maniac was able to rattle off thousands of rounds, nine every second, into a Las Vegas crowd.
But what Republicans must see is that admitting the obvious — that equipment enabling people to spray bullets without pause has no place in a civilized America — shoots holes in the pro-gun talking points they’ve been parroting for years.
They say that when certain guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have them. If that were true, why make bump stocks illegal? In fact, why even honor the 1986 law that severely restricts ownership and bans sales of machine guns?
The fact is, legal prohibitions, whether on bump stocks or high-capacity magazines or assault rifles, actually keep lethal firepower out of some people’s grip.
And they say guns are a crucial check against tyranny, giving citizens the power to resist state oppression. If that were true, outlawing bump stocks would be insulting the rights of ordinary American citizens to arm themselves against an imaginary totalitarian dictator.
Banning jerry-rigged automatic weapons must be the start of a far broader awakening.
Ditch the push to make it ever easier to get silencers and armor-piercing bullets. Prohibit the high-capacity magazines that facilitate killing sprees, and the assault rifles that are built not for self-defense or hunting or target practice, but to kill and kill and kill. Stop blocking smart guns.
Senseless Second Amendment absolutism is now proven hollow. Sensible gun regulations can save lives. The only question is whether we have the collective courage to try.