Bump stocks scarce in the Shenandoah Valley

It’s not easy to buy a bump stock in the Shenandoah Valley. The device, a rifle attachment that harnesses recoil energy to bolster the fire rate of a semiautomatic weapon to near-machine gun levels, gained national prominence when it was discovered that Stephen Paddock used several in the Las Vegas mass shootings.

Fifty-eight people died as a result of the shootings and more than 500 were injured, making it the most lethal mass shooting in modern American history.

In the tragedy’s aftermath, federal and state politicians across the country started calling for a review of legislation regulating bump stocks. Even the National Rifle Association endorsed new restrictions.

A nationwide run on bump stocks ensued. Just as communities rush to supermarkets before a hurricane, gun owners rushed to buy up the rifle attachment while still available.

Most stores in the Shenandoah Valley have never had bump stocks in their inventory, before or after the Las Vegas shootings. Those that have sold the rifle accessory haven’t restocked for a number of years, and never had great quantities on hand.

“I don’t do bump stocks, never have,” said Dale Kingree, owner of D & H Guns in Woodstock. “I do all hunting guns.”

“I don’t have them, don’t have access to them,” said John Myer, owner of Custom Gunsmithing in Boyce.

“We do not sell bump stocks in our stores,” said Charles Crowson, Walmart spokesperson. Until recently, Walmart sold bump stocks on its digital store, but not in its brick-and-mortar locations.

One of the only local stores still selling bump stocks is Stonewall Firearms in Winchester. Even there, inventory is limited.

“To be honest with you, these are the first two that I’ve ever seen,” said A.J. Williams, manager of Stonewall Firearms, indicating two bump stocks he acquired on Oct. 9. “I don’t think we’ve ever had them in this store.”

Before the Las Vegas shootings, Williams estimates he could have sold a bump stock for $200, a number in line with estimates from other Shenandoah Valley gun store owners. The two bump stocks Williams has in stock are priced at $500 apiece.

Williams may not have long to sell his inventory. On Oct. 6, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared that he would introduce legislation in the 2018 General Assembly session to ban bump stocks throughout Virginia.

“This is coming from a guy who owns three guns, who is a hunter – no hunter needs a bump stock. They should be outlawed,” McAuliffe said during his visit to Winchester on Oct. 10.

McAuliffe emphasized that he does not want to take guns out of the hands of current owners.

“If you are legally entitled to a gun, you are protected. Nobody will ever take your gun away. Nobody will ever prevent you from buying a firearm. Ever,” McAuliffe said. “However, with background checks, maybe we could stop someone who may have a mental illness, may have a domestic felony against him – there are people in this society that should not own firearms.”

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, and U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, both advocated a closer look at regulations concerning bump stocks in the United States. However, neither has called for an outright ban.

“While there is still much to learn about what happened in Las Vegas, the use of bump stocks in that horrific tragedy is extremely concerning,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I am committed to looking at the regulations dealing with bump stocks to see if they need improving.”

Comstock, in a statement, emphasized the need to gather “all the facts regarding the mass murder in Las Vegas.” She has also pushed for immediate scrutiny of current laws regulating bump stocks.

“I joined my colleagues in a letter to ATF Acting Director Thomas E. Brandon for the bureau to re-evaluate this decision about bump stocks and other similar mechanisms that is expressly designed to simulate the automatic rate of fire of a machine gun,” the statement continued.