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How Did Guns Get So Powerful?

The New Yorker – Decade by decade, firearms have become deadlier—and tightened their grip on our collective imagination – “The guns that today’s Americans buy and sell by the millions are perfectly suited for that purpose. Civilian AR-15s differ from military versions because, in 1986, the Firearm Owners Protection Act banned the transfer or possession of machine guns; as a result, a mechanical block on civilian ARs requires the shooter to pull the trigger to release another bullet. But clever gun enthusiasts have figured out an easy way to bypass this mechanism: a device known as a bump stock uses the energy of the rifle’s recoil to assist in bumping the trigger against the shooter’s finger. The original military version of the AR-15 can fire eight hundred rounds per minute; an unmodified civilian AR-15 might fire forty-five to sixty. A version with a bump stock can fire somewhere between four hundred and eight hundred. In the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, a sixty-four-year-old man without advanced marksmanship skills or military training used a bump stock to achieve something like fully automated rifle fire, sending more than eleven hundred rounds into a crowd in the course of ten minutes, killing fifty-eight people and wounding more than five hundred. It would have taken Billington six hours to fire that many bullets…”

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