The banning of gun modification devices called bump stocks may be a small concession, but even the mighty National Rifle Association can see the wisdom of making it in the wake of the Las Vegas horror. With any luck, the next massacre – and there’s bound to be one – won’t be quite so deadly.
After years of doing nothing to combat America’s gun problem, the NRA seems to accept that perhaps enabling citizens to easily change semi-automatic weapons into fully automatics isn’t a good thing. But then again, the association’s duck-and-cover maneuver is coming only in the face of public outrage over the killing of 58 people and the injuring of more than 500 by a maniac spraying bullet after bullet down on a crowd of thousands. He had modified his weapons.
For too long, the NRA has argued violent incidents are best stopped by good guys with guns. But no sidearm-carrying concertgoer could have stopped this shooter.
Yet the best Congress money can buy has for years accepted the NRA’s talking points as fact, and we haven’t had a chief executive who’s truly made guns a top priority.
So those of us concerned with America’s gun violence shouldn’t get too excited thinking something big is finally happening or that the NRA has finally been shocked into doing something responsible. It won’t be long before its lackeys on Capitol Hill renew their push for further gun rights.
Is this too harsh an assessment? I think not, considering that the massacre of 20 elementary school children in Connecticut in 2012 had no lasting effect on our lawmakers.
Is it too much to think this bump stock ban is simply a con job by weapons manufacturers, who before we know it will be back to their usual tricks? The NRA is hardly going to give up the fight for Second Amendment rights after decades of convincing unwitting members that the Founding Fathers’ aim was protecting them from jackbooted government thugs.
Once upon a time, the gun industry, with sales declining as the nation became more urbanized, went about looking for a boost. They spotted the NRA, then a respected but sleepy organization promoting classes on gun safety and hunting. No one, including the courts, talked much about the constitutional rights to owning a cannon or a machine gun. Only Dillinger and the rest of the bank robbers employed those.
But then the gun-builders took over the NRA and used the Second Amendment, which even then constitutional scholars considered flawed, as a means of ushering in the greatest expansion of civilian gun ownership in the history of the world. America now has more than 300 million guns. Never mind that the amendment was poorly written and that not even the most perceptive of the Constitution’s authors could have envisioned automatic weapons or their place in an urban America.
Then, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a gun enthusiast, led a majority in changing the longtime view that the amendment’s thrust was collective, or militia-related. Instead, they argued, the right to bear arms is an individual one. That change in perception led to an all-out assault on firearms sensibility.
And now we’ve experienced Las Vegas.
Will it change at all what happens in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill? Will banning bump stocks be the only concession?
By all means, we’ll take it. But we’ll view it with a jaundiced eye.
Dan Thomasson is a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Email him at email@example.com.