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Avid student hunting enthusiast wants to ‘pull the trigger’ on bump stocks

Luke+Hagerdon+is+a+local+high+school+student+who+attends+face-to-face+courses+on+the+UTPB+campus+in+a+dual-credit+program.+
Luke Hagerdon is a local high school student who attends face-to-face courses on the UTPB campus in a dual-credit program.

Luke Hagerdon is a local high school student who attends face-to-face courses on the UTPB campus in a dual-credit program.

Luke Hagerdon is a local high school student who attends face-to-face courses on the UTPB campus in a dual-credit program.

Luke Hagerdon, guest Opinion Columnist

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Only a few weeks ago, I went to my senior prom at a country club. There were around one hundred teenagers and ten to fifteen adults packed into a medium-sized room and while I entered the facility, I tried looking at different exits in the building. From what I could see, there was only one immediate exit leading outside, all the other doors that I had seen, lead either to bathrooms or to a kitchen. With no police presence, and no security guarding the entrance, I reluctantly began thinking of what would happen if someone came into that building during that dance with a bump-fire stock attached to an AR-15. I began to wonder how many friends I might lose and ponder if I might be part of another unfortunate tragedy, and become just another name that is smeared on the news.”

— Luke Hagerdon

On the evening of October 1, 2017, sixty-four-year-old, Stephen Paddock, opened fire on a crowd of more than 22,000 people who were enjoying the end of a country music festival. In the aftermath of this horrific shooting, Paddock was responsible for “killing fifty-nine individuals and injuring an additional 527 people, all in the matter of nine seconds” according to Alana Abramson (and her other associates) who wrote the article titled, “What We Know About the Las Vegas Shooting,” for Time Magazine. You may ask yourself, “What type of weapon was Paddock using to cause such destruction in such a short amount of time”? After investigations from the authorities, they confirmed that Paddock had used an AR-15 to commit this tragedy, but what is interesting about this shooting, is not necessarily the gun, but rather the accessory attached to it. What was found attached to his rifles were unique stocks that allowed Paddock to change his semi-automatic rifles into fully-automatic guns. These stocks are popularly known as bump fire stocks.

Being a gun enthusiast myself, I was quite aware of this accessory for the AR-15, but after the Las Vegas shooting however, I began to question the reasoning and ethics behind such a device. While doing research on the topics, discussions, and laws concerning this device, it shocked me how little people understand this device and how this accessory has bypassed laws implemented by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, or ATF and by doing so, has made it difficult to implement laws around it. In this paper. There is a rationale behind why laws should be created in order to restrict bump-fire stocks from being easily purchased, and to keep them out of the hands of psychopaths to prevent a tragedy like the Las Vegas Massacre from happening in Texas.

The ArmaLite rifle, or AR-15, has been around for almost half a century and is growing increasingly popular among households as a weapon of choice for home defense, hunting, and for general enjoyment. With the invention of cell phones came cell phone accessories, likewise, with the creation of rifles, especially the AR-15, came rifle accessories. If you google “AR-15 accessories,” you would be able to pull up hundreds of options from hundreds of websites, and among the items that pop up as suggested purchases, you would find the bump-fire stock listed at the top ten. The inventor of this product, Jeremiah Cottle, who lives in Texas, said he “came up with the idea back in 2011 using a piece of wood and some metal” according to Ann Givens who wrote an article titled, “Meet the Man Who Says He Invented the ‘Bump Stock,’” for Vice News. As of right now, Texas has no laws regarding the purchase of this accessory as long as the individual is over the age of eighteen. Currently, placing restrictions on bump-fire stocks such as requiring a Federal Firearms License or FFL, is nearly impossible due to the definition put in place by the ATF. According to the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. 5845(b) states, “The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”  In other words, because the bump-fire stock requires you to pull the trigger each time a shot is fired, it, by definition, does not convert the semi-automatic AR-15 to a fully automatic rifle. However, the way a bump fire stock works, is by harnessing energy that is produced by the gun, propelling the weapon in the opposite direction the bullet is traveling. When the gun slides backwards, it hits the end up the stock and is propelled forward again allowing the trigger to be pulled once more.

After the Las Vegas shooting, our nation began to see an even larger movement to enact more legislation on guns, especially legislation around AR-15s and their accessories. On one side, those who are pro-gun think the laws that already exist around guns are enough, and some would go as far as to say that they may even be a little extreme. From this angle, they are worried the freedoms that were given by the founding fathers will be stripped away from them and that by placing further legislations around AR-15s, it will begin a slippery slope that will eventually lead to the banning of all guns and rifles. Those on the left however, believe there have been enough mass shootings already and are ready to place preventative actions around these weapons and their components to avert more mass shootings from happening again. After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, even Republican President, Donald Trump, is calling for legislation around this issue. In an article written by the Associated Press for Time Magazine, titled, “President Trump Announces Ban on Bump Stocks for Guns” stated, “President Donald Trump says his administration will ‘BAN’ bump stock devices that ‘turn legal weapons into illegal machines.’”

I happen to be a very avid hunter. Before I moved to Midland, Texas, I lived in South Texas for about five years. While I lived in that area, I participated in a lot of outdoor activity such as, hunting, fishing and just enjoying the great outdoors. I have never found myself in a situation that required me to have a rapid fire stock attached to my gun in order to effectively use my weapon. Instead, I find that this stock would prevent me from doing what needs to be done while you are hunting, which is, to aim well, take as little shots as necessary, and to kill the game humanely.  Emptying a twenty-round magazine on a few hogs is going to cause unnecessary pain and injury for the animals not shot in vital areas, simply because you are not going to be able to accurately aim at your target. It is also an extremely expensive way to hunt, due to the amount of ammo you would use in such a short amount of time. With these devices however, those in Texas are able to use this unnecessary accessory to inhumanely kill game legally, and if not used properly and responsibly, can result in someone hurting themselves or others. With the inability to control the rifle well while it is being fired, the hunter must need experience before even attempting to use this. Hunters who are young or inexperienced may not be aware of their surroundings or understand the power it will take to control the weapon and the effects due to this lack of understanding may result in injury or even death.

Christian Science Monitor published an article written by Harry Bruninius and Patrik Jonsson, titled, “Why Gun Experts Don’t Support Banning – or Buying – ‘Bump Stocks,’” in which they interviewed several men after the Las Vegas shooting. One individual they interviewed was a man by the name of “Paul Valone, the president of Grassroots North Carolina, a nationally influential gun rights organization” (Bruninius par. 8). He argues:

Bump fire stocks are an amusement, because they don’t under normal circumstances turn an AR-15 or another rifle into a killing machine, because you can’t hit anything with it. Only when you are presented 400 yards away with a field of uninterrupted humanity would something like that even be effective. (Bruninius par. 9)

Although he offers a very valid point by stating that these devices make the AR-15 extremely inaccurate and that it would not be effective for someone who would wants to use their guns responsibly, I think he misses the fact that those who want to commit crimes of mass shooting will be aiming at large groups of people, and bump-fire stocks will only assist in their monstrosity. I wake up every morning hearing that someone, either locally or somewhere around the country, has brought or has tried to bring a gun onto their school campus. It is our schools, our malls, our concerts and large venues that shooters will be aiming for. Their goal is to cause as much chaos and destruction as they can. The argument stated by Valone that you “can’t hit anything with (a bump-fire stock)” (Bruninius par. 9) is very wrong, because we have seen firsthand effects of what this device makes an AR-15 capable of doing.

With mass shootings steadily on the rise, I believe it is time to take a closer look on what actions we can take as a state to insure an attack like the Las Vegas shooting does not occur again. By allowing bumpstocks to be harder to obtain, it would prevent unstable individuals from being able to access and use this device such as Stephen Paddock did. Bump-fire stocks provides no value to the protection and security of ourselves or our families and with practically zero regulations around this accessory I believe, it decreases our security while we are going about our daily activities. Only a few weeks ago, I went to my senior prom at a country club. There were around one hundred teenagers and ten to fifteen adults packed into a medium-sized room and while I entered the facility, I tried looking at different exits in the building. From what I could see, there was only one immediate exit leading outside, all the other doors that I had seen, lead either to bathrooms or to a kitchen. With no police presence, and no security guarding the entrance, I reluctantly began thinking of what would happen if someone came into that building during that dance with a bump-fire stock attached to an AR-15. I began to wonder how many friends I might lose and ponder if I might be part of another unfortunate tragedy, and become just another name that is smeared on the news. I am embarrassed to admit to having to think those thoughts, but unfortunately it is a very real reality. One that we as citizens have to deal with and learn how to control.

Many argue that we need to carry more guns and become licensed for concealed carry but how effective is it for someone to actually use their weapon on an active shooter and would help the situation or only aggravate it? According to a study performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI, they stated that out of 160 active shooter incidents that occurred between 2000 to 2013, only five of those incidents had an armed citizen that used a firearm to engage the shooter. Out of those five incidents only three of these shooters were either injured or killed. Whereas twenty-one of these shootings were stopped and the shooters were restrained by unarmed citizens (Blair 11). In this study we see that the use of non-lethal weapons have actually been more effective in active shooter situations. Robert Farago took an Active Shooter Instructor’s Course in which he began to understand some of the core principles of what to do and what not to do in the event of an active shooter incident in his article titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Engage an Active Shooter and What to Do If You Do.”

Farago states there are many downfalls to engaging an active shooter, one being mistaken by the police as the shooter. Aside from that he states, “People don’t like people who shoot at them. If you engage with the shooter, he will engage with you right back and that will only draw the shooter towards you and other people you are around” (Farago par. 5). And as there becomes more and more of a buzz around gun control and how to react to it, especially in our schools, the right has suggested the idea of arming teachers. Vanessa Terrades wrote a journal entry, titled, “Mass Shooting and Offenders’ Motives: A Comparison of the United States and Foreign Nations,” where she discusses mass shootings in the United States compared to other countries around the world, along with discussing preventative measures to reduce the risk of other mass shootings. She states a study that suggests arming teachers only increased aggression among the students and along with this, Terrades states that an increase in accidental shootings (Terrades 422). Although she does not agree with the idea of arming teachers and other faculty, she would be open a school marshal. “A school marshal’s identity would be covert to all except police and school administrators. Therefore, if a school marshal law is passed, potential active shooters may be deterred from acting because of the higher risk of being caught or unsuccessful” (Terrades 422).

Although Texas currently has no regulation concerning the purchase of bump stocks for an AR-15 besides the requirement of a minimum age of eighteen, Massachusetts has lead the fight to control and regulate these types of modifications from being done to these rifles. The new law, which took effect at the beginning of 2018, states a ban on “bump stocks and ‘any device for a weapon that increases the rate of fire achievable with such weapon by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger,’” according to Lauren del Valle, who wrote “Massachusetts Becomes First State to Ban Bump Stocks Since Vegas Massacre” for CNN. With this new definition on placed around this accessory, those who are found in possession of a device that modifies the AR-15 to shoot like a fully automatic rifle can be penalized anywhere from probation to something as serious as life in prison (Valle par. 3). With a large majority of the people living in Massachusetts now restricted to the purchase of these devices, it greatly reduces the chance of another Las Vegas massacre occurring in that state. Texans have seen the effects of allowing such a device to be legal and it is now time for the state to pass legislation around it. A bill needs to be passed that mimics the law set in place in Massachusetts but with a few less restrictions. Although there is no benefit to owning a bump-fire stock, there should still be a way for citizens to be able to obtain a bump-fire stock. One way to accomplish this, is to require a potential buyer to obtain an FFL. According to the FFL’s current standards in obtaining the license, you cannot be listed in the “prohibited person’s” category, which requires a mental screening and the individual may not have any crime that was punishable for more than a year. In other words, in order to apply, you will need to have a clean record and a mental screening, which would weed out potentially lethal individuals from buying one of these devices. If we implemented this law, I believe we would be able to begin to feel safe to go to concerts and other outing events again. It would give us a peace of mind to know that we will not be gunned down in a crowd and become just another number of mass shooting deaths in this country.

This country was built on the idea that life and freedom should be enjoyed by all individuals. By allowing unstable and psychopathic individuals to rip the joys of life and replace it with the fear of another mass shooting, it infringes our rights to life. It also cripples our ability to live our life to its fullest and to prosper as individuals. By implementing a law that requires an individual to obtain for a FFL, we would begin to feel comfortable going to these outings and interacting with people again. We as fellow Texans need to form together to make this dream possible. We need to wake up to the stark reality that we face and begin to influence our legislator for the benefit of all its citizens. My prayer is that, by passing a bill like this, we would never have to experience another tragedy as devastating as the Las Vegas shooting. With mass shootings like this on a steady rise, we need to be thinking about the safety and future of our children in a day and age where there is so much to be unsure about, so much to worry about. I think it is time we say, never again.

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Avid student hunting enthusiast wants to ‘pull the trigger’ on bump stocks