The gunman who launched heavy gunfire at people at a Las Vegas concert appears to have done so using a legal trick that almost anyone can buy.
Many had wondered how Stephen Paddock managed to fire for so long and so quickly as he rained down bullets for around 15 minutes on the country music festival. The numerous weapons he fired from his hotel room allowed him to kill at least 59 people and injure hundreds more.
The speed of that shooting led some to suggest that Paddock was using automatic weapons. But automatic rifles are heavily regulated and difficult to buy in the US.
Las Vegas shooting – in pictures
Instead, he used a “bump stock” on at least two of the weapons, officials said. That legal trick is an attachment for the weapon that technically allows it to count as semi-automatic, despite the fact that it can be used to fire like an automatic rifle.
The devices have attracted scrutiny in recent years from authorities. But they are entirely legal and regularly available in many states.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein has long railed against them. Several years ago, she told The Associated Press she was concerned about the emergence of new technologies that could retrofit firearms to make them fully automatic.
“This replacement shoulder stock turns a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute,” she said.
A semi-automatic weapon requires one trigger pull for each round fired. With a fully automatic firearm, one trigger pull can unleash continuous rounds until the magazine is empty.
The purchasing of fully automatic weapons has been significantly restricted in the U.S. since the 1930s.
In 1986, the federal National Firearms Act was amended further to prohibit the transfer or possession of machine guns by civilians, with an exception for those previously manufactured and registered.
Numerous attempts to design retrofits failed until recent years when bump…