State Senate votes to ban bump stocks

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WASR/Wikimedia Commons A Slidefire bump stock on a WASR-10 rifle allows the body of the gun to be pushed forward into the user’s trigger finger while the gun stock remains pressed against the user’s shoulder. Each shot’s recoil pushes the body of the gun back into the stock. This motion can be rapidly cycled, simulating the rapid fire of an automatic rifle.

The state Senate voted recently to ban possession, sale or manufacture of bump stocks, a firearm attachment that works with gunfire recoil to bounce the trigger of a semi-automatic rifle against the user’s finger, causing the weapon to fire as rapidly as an automatic rifle.

This comes three months after the Las Vegas shooting, where a gunman used bump stocks to fire hundreds of bullets from a hotel window down on more than 22,000 people gathered at a country music festival. Fifty-eight people died, over 400 people were shot, and over 850 people were injured overall, according to a Jan. 19 report by Clark County, Nev. Sheriff Joe Lombardo, topping the list of mass shootings in U.S. history.

Though no one disputed that the Las Vegas shooting was horrible, the proposed ban left the Senate divided. Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Wooley, said that if he felt that the bill would save lives, he would vote for it.

“However, bump firing is a technique,” Wagoner said. “You can bump fire with your finger hooked through your belt loop. I hope (your finger is) not going to be seized.”

At the bill’s public hearing Jan. 15, committee staff member Shani Bauer did note that it was possible to bump fire with simple modifications or with a loose grip on a rifle, but said that “a bump fire stock was developed in order to allow the shooter to obtain some level of accuracy and control.”

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, tried to amend the bill Thursday to require state and federal background checks for the sale of bump stocks, instead of banning them altogether. Without bump-stocks, Padden said, people with disabilities who do not have full use of their fingers might not be able to effectively shoot a firearm.

Kelly Birr testified at the bill’s Jan. 15 public hearing that carpal tunnel syndrome in his trigger finger made pulling a trigger painful and possibly ineffectual. With a bump stock, Birr said, he was able to pull the rifle forward, compressing the trigger against his finger instead of the other way around.

“These devices allow me to have pain-free operation of a firearm,” Birr said.

The amendment failed to pass the Senate floor.

Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, managed to pass his own amendment, which narrowed the scope of the bill to restrict only bump stocks. The original bill would have also banned more common trigger modifications.

Most Republican senators remained unsatisfied.

“I appreciate the efforts of people who made a very broad, very flawed bill better, but we are in the process of banning something that has never been used in the commission of a crime in the state of Washington,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, on the Senate floor.

Further, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Whatcom County, said that if a bump stock was going to be used in a crime, criminalizing the accessory would have little effect.

“Do you really think the crazy, psycho person who sits in a hotel room with a gun is going to say, ‘oh, it’s against the law in Washington to have one of those, so now I’m not going to do my crime’?” said Ericksen.

The bill passed the Senate 29-20 and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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