The horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas last Sunday has focused a lot of attention on “bump stock” accessories that allow semi-automatic weapons to produce a rate of fire similar to that of a fully automatic weapon, but they are not subject to federal National Firearms Act restrictions.
Republicans and the NRA have quickly jumped on “regulating” bump stocks as a rear-guard action against doing anything meaningful about gun violence, with many claiming the existence of such accessories is news to them.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) is one of the Republicans claiming ignorance of bump stocks, while expressing a desire to “look into” the matter:
“Look, I didn't even know what they were until this week, and I'm an avid sportsman, so I think we are quickly coming up to speed with what this is. Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time. Apparently this allows you to take a semi-automatic and turn it into fully automatic. Clearly that's something we need to look into.”
What Ryan is saying may or may not be true, but it would almost be better if he were lying. Shortly after Ryan assumed the speaker's gavel in 2015, a bill was introduced in the House banning a very familiar-sounding item:
Any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun.
As speaker of the House, Ryan could have brought that bill up for a vote, but instead, he allowed it to die in committee. In 2013, Republicans and 15 Democrats defeated another such ban in the Senate, 60-40.
Watch a comparison of semi-automatic rates of fire with and without accessories below.