His cold, dead hand was still on the rife stock, almost as if Stephen Paddock were making good on Charlton Heston’s famous pledge at an NRA convention.
But Paddock was not a movie star turned gun-industry shill. He was the 64-year-old retired accountant being called the Las Vegas gunman. He had just murdered 59 innocents before taking his own life.
As seen in a photo taken in the hotel suite where he was sprawled on his back, Stephen Paddock’s legs conceal the rest of the weapon on which his gloved left hand rested. Another one of the 16 assault rifles he had with him was nearby, fitted with a “bump stock,” a device that takes advantage of a loophole in the law to convert a semi-automatic assault weapon into what is effectively a legal machine gun.
The leading manufacturer of the bump stock is Slide Fire Solutions, a Moran, Texas company founded by an Iraq War veteran. Slide Fire prominently displayed its bump stock at the world’s largest gun exhibition, the 2017 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
“SLIDE FIRE - FREEDOM UNLEASHED,” read the sign at the company’s display.
The SHOT Show is hosted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a gun industry trade association based in Newtown, Connecticut, just three miles from the elementary school where another monster with an assault rifle murdered 26 people, 20 of them young children. The Newtown horror did not change the NSSF’s position regarding assault rifles and the Las Vegas horror is not likely to cause it to reconsider its position regarding bump stocks.
But the NSSF did take down the Slide Fire Solutions bump stock video from the 2017 SHOT Show "product spotlights" on its website. Ban the product video, but not the product itself even though it was instrumental in a monstrous mass murder.
A similar video from the 2015 show is still online. It includes a demonstration with an assault rifle fitted with a bump stock in action, peppering a target in the shape of a human torso.
“We spent a lot of time on design, getting the lines right, making it aesthetically pleasing,” a company representative says. “It's more comfortable to shoot. We're really excited about this….$299. It should be available everywhere.”
One 2017 product video that is still up on the SHOT Show site features a Daniel Defense AR-15 assault rifle that had just been deemed the NRA’s 2017 Gun of the Year.
“We're real excited,” a representative says in the video. “It’s actually the first time the NRA ever featured an AR-15 as the gun of the year.”
Fans of the Daniel Defense AR-15 included Stephen Paddock, who had at least one of the weapons in his hotel room. Paddock needed only the bump stock to make it into a virtual machine gun that could send violent death raining down on the defenseless crowd below.
In the aftermath of the 2012 Newtown school massacre, President Obama came to console the grief-stricken families and called for stricter gun controls with such passion that private citizen Donald Trump tweeted his support:
“President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Conn”
Trump’s position on firearms changed as part of a larger pandering that got him elected president. He delivered the keynote speech at the 2017 annual meeting of the NRA.
“These are dangerous times,” he said. “These are horrible times for certain obvious reasons. But we’re going to make them great times again. Every day, we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment. We must be vigilant.”
Back at the 2000 NRA convention, the keynote speaker had been Charlton Heston. He had ended his speech by hoisting a replica of a flintlock rifle and pledging that the government would only take the weapon “from my cold, dead hands.”
In his speech this year, Trump made sure to mention Heston, saying, “How good was Charlton … I remember Charlton, he was out there fighting when maybe a lot of people didn’t want to be fighting. He was out there for a long time. He was a great guy.”
On Wednesday, Trump visited Las Vegas, where the madman who murdered 59 innocents then took his own life and was found with his cold, dead hand resting on one of an assemblage of 16 assault rifles that included the NRA 2017 Gun of the Year.
But where Obama’s visit to Newtown had compelled him to call for gun control, Trump’s visit to Las Vegas prompted him to say nothing at all about addressing the unending slaughter.
Meanwhile, the firearms blog on the Slide Fire website has a video titled “How To Own A Machinegun.” It can be found here. The video includes a demonstration of a bump stock in action.
“It sounds like a machine gun and the down range effect is pretty much the same,” the video says.
Another Slide Fire bump stock video says, “This is definitely something that's a game-changer for you guys out there who want to put down a heavy volume of fire.”
The founder of Slide Fide, Jeremiah Cottle, did not respond to a Daily Beast request for an interview. He is on record regarding what he says is his company’s top priority as it markets its “game-changer.”
“God first,” Cottle has said.
Unless Congress takes actions after the latest mass murder—as it failed to take action after Newtown—the bump stock will almost certainly be featured the 2018 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, along with the Daniel Defense assault rifle.
The NSSF is already signing up participants thorough its website. The site offers this message from folks who join the NRA in fighting gun control as weapons of war keep falling into the warm, living hands of madmen, from the Connecticut town where NSSF is based to the Nevada city where it holds the mother of all gun shows:
“OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH THE FAMILIES AND LOVED ONES OF ALL THOSE KILLED AND INJURED IN THE CRIMINAL ATTACK IN LAS VEGAS.”