Firearms experts say the rate of fire Stephen Paddock used in Sunday’s slaughter in Las Vegas suggests at least one weapon had rapid-fire capabilities.
And while machine guns are heavily regulated by state and federal law, there are several methods to modify semi-automatic weapons to fire at a nearly automatic rate that are perfectly legal in both Nevada and Ohio.
There are 11,752 legally owned machine guns in Nevada, and 21,561 in Ohio, according to statistics released in April by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In Ohio, some of these belong to 369 licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers.
The ATF doesn’t release how many private owners have machine guns, but federal law requires those weapons to be tracked. Private owners also can’t buy newly manufactured machine guns. They can only acquire guns made prior to 1986. This means the price of the limited supply often ranges in the tens of thousands of dollars.
But a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased for $1,000 or less. And with less than $200 more, an attachment can legally speed up the firing rate to the same speed used in Vegas.
A New York Times analysis of the audio of the shooting notes that the unsteady rate of fire suggests he may have used such a method.
A “bump stock” or “slide stock” for example can be purchased at Cabela’s for $169. It uses the gun’s recoil to speed up the firing rate to hundreds of rounds per minute. These are not regulated by the ATF or under Ohio law.
Here’s an example:
Another attachment is a “trigger crank” or “gat crank.” These are available for only $40 online and attach to the gun, allowing the trigger to be suppressed multiple times with every turn.
Here’s an example:
While turning a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon is a felony, these modifications are legal because the gun still only fires once every time the trigger is pulled -- they just speed up the rate at which the trigger is pulled.
Proponents of increased gun regulation have already started using Sunday’s attack to rekindle the debate on gun laws.
“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” tweeted Hillary Clinton Monday. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
Jeff Pedro, owner of the Sim-Trainer shooting range in Dayton, opposes any regulatory change in response to the attack, regardless of the weapon used.
“It’s no differant than if he had rented a Ryder truck filled it up with fertilizer and fuel oil and detonated it in the middle of a crowd” Pedro said. “It’s not the item, it’s the individual involved.”
“The real story is going to be why he did it, if that information is ever known.”
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