The city of Columbia, S.C., has banned the use of bump stocks, the attachment that dramatically accelerates the rate-of-fire of semi-automatic rifles. Columbia is believed to be the first, or one of the first, U.S. cities to enact such a ban.
Bump stocks allow semi-automatic rifles to fire bullets nearly as rapidly as automatic weapons. The ban is meant to prevent the device's use, not its sale — a discrepancy that Columbia officials say is due to a state law that bars cities from regulating firearms or firearm components.
Bump stocks made headlines in October, when a man used weapons fitted with the attachment in an attack that killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. The weapons reportedly shot perhaps as fast as 90 shots in 10 seconds. After that massacre, Massachusetts enacted a ban on bump stocks.
Columbia's Mayor Steve Benjamin says his city acted out of both common sense and respect for the Second Amendment.
"We could not outright ban ownership of them outright" Benjamin tells NPR's Rachel Martin on Morning Edition. "We could prohibit their use in the city in their attachment to illegal firearm and that's what we did in this ordinance. It is now under state law. All we could do is issue a misdemeanor for someone who attaches one would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine in 30 days in jail."
Columbia's City Council approved the new ordinance Tuesday, banning both bump stocks and trigger cranks — small cranks that fit over the trigger and which can fire a weapon multiple times with one revolution.
The ban had its critics when it was introduced in early December — but this week, Benjamin says, "The response has been overwhelmingly positive." He cited emails from Republicans and Second Amendment advocates who said that despite their political beliefs, "there's no reason that these things should be on our streets."
Laying out the city council's logic, the mayor noted that after a heinous mass shooting, "people always say that a good guy with a gun could have done something about this."
"Well, the reality is that on our city council, there are whole lots of good guys who have guns," Benjamin said, "and [we] just thought that other than the argument being so constantly polarized, that people who are strong supporters of the Second Amendment — but also strong supporters of downright good common sense — should step up and do something. And we thought Columbia, South Carolina, might be a great place to start."