Another month, another massacre.
A month ago, we asked Congress to ban bump stocks, the lethal devices that were used in the Mandalay Bay shootings in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock, that increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic weapons and essentially make them fully automatic.
Paddock used them to horrifying effect on Oct. 1, murdering 58 people and wounding another 500 at a country music concert as he rained death from his high-rise hotel room.
Slide-Fire, the Texas-based manufacturer of the bump stocks, promptly stopped taking orders for the devices, and after a month of “bereavement” last week started selling them again on its website.
Congress, meanwhile, dithered over the calls — including ours — to ban the devices. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said recently that Congress would rather have a regulatory solution to the problem. But the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which gave initial approval to bump stocks, has said it can’t ban the devices without Congress passing a new law.
The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, first said bump stocks should be regulated, but then backed away from any legislation to ban them. Fingers pointed in all directions and, in the meantime, bump stocks are ready for purchase as Christmas stocking stuffers.
On Nov. 5, it was another crazed shooter, in a feud with his in-laws, who walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas, and used his semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 innocent church-goers, many of them children, and wound 20 others. The shooter fled the church, was shot by a citizen and then apparently committed suicide.
Law enforcement authorities say the shooting was methodical, that Devin Patrick Kelley went down the church aisle firing and firing again — an estimated 450 times. Fifteen empty 30-round magazines were found at the scene. No, we have not seen any reports that Kelley used a bump stock to mow down the parishioners — he simply used high-capacity magazines to load and reload his rifle to shoot again and again and again and again until the pews were covered in blood.
In the aftermath of the Texas massacre, Speaker Ryan called for prayers for those injured and killed in the Texas church and was criticized by some via social media. Along with Speaker Ryan, we believe in prayer. But we also believe that God helps those who help themselves. Our problem in the wake of these now regular gun-fueled massacres is not a crisis of faith in God, but a lack of faith in Congress to do something to protect the American people.
That is Congress’ obligation to all citizens to make them safer — no matter if they are devout in their religious practices, skeptics, lapsed Lutherans or on the secular left.
Congress has the ability to do this — to stand up to the NRA and the gun manufacturers and at least blunt the lethality of the all-too-frequent massacres. There is no reasonable purpose for the use of fully automatic firepower for hunting, or for self-protection through the use of bump stocks. Nor is there a reasonable purpose for the use of high-capacity 30- or 50-round magazines.
Banning bump stocks and limiting the capacity of magazines to five or six shots will not put an end to the madness of these attacks, but it will blunt them and reduce the number of casualties and injuries. That is the least our elected representatives can and should do.
We pray that Congress hears this message before next month’s massacre.