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In Wake of Vegas Shooting, Bump Stock Maker Missing From SHOT Show

NRA booth display at SHOT Show 2018. (Hope Hodge Seck/Military.com)
NRA booth display at SHOT Show 2018. (Hope Hodge Seck/Military.com)

LAS VEGAS -- The world's largest gun show went on as scheduled this week just miles from the Las Vegas strip location where a heavily armed gunman killed 58 concertgoers in October 2017. But SlideFire, the company that makes a controversial accessory used by the killer to mimic the rate of automatic fire, was conspicuously absent from SHOT Show.

For many, though, this development was met with shrugs.

SlideFire, a Texas-based company, bills itself as the official maker of the bump stock, a device that uses the recoil of a semi-automatic weapon to speed up the rate of fire. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, had SlideFire bump stocks on 12 of his arsenal of 23 firearms.

In the wake of the shooting, the National Rifle Association took the unusual step of endorsing additional regulations specific to bump stocks.

"The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," the organization wrote in an October statement. "In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans' Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is now considering whether to ban bump stocks under machine gun prohibitions. And several states, including Massachusetts and Washington, have passed their own regulations banning the accessories.

Amid the call for regulation, demand has reportedly surged for what were previously considered novelty accessories, with SlideFire announcing at one point that it had to suspend taking new orders in order to fill existing ones. It continued to promote its bump stocks this month ahead of SHOT Show.

"In celebration of SHOT Show, we're offering an extra 10 percent off any one of our Slide Fire stocks or accessories," the company wrote in a promotional release sent Jan. 24. "Pick up any one of our bump fire stocks, just in time for SHOT Show."

SlideFire did not respond to a Military.com inquiry about why it didn't attend the show itself, however.

A spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which organizes the show, indicated the absence was voluntary.

"Companies make their own decisions about attending SHOT Show," Bill Brassard told Military.com.

Staff with the National Rifle Association at the show said they could not immediately comment on the absence of the bump stock maker.

But the general sentiment from attendees who spoke with Military.com was that the missing company was no loss to the show.

"The truth is, I don't think gun owners care a lot about bump stocks; very few shooters use them," said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.

Gottlieb said he had spoken publicly on the issue of bump stocks in light of the proposed legislation, and was primarily concerned with clarifying language to ensure new regulations were not overly broad, extending to other modifications and accessories.

Regarding the Las Vegas tragedy, he theorized that the shooter's use of the bump stock modification may have actually saved lives, saying officials had found that some of his guns equipped with the devices had jammed and become inoperable.

Christopher Peel, a first-time SHOT Show attendee who asked that his affiliation not be identified, said he had never used a bump stock.

"They're a novelty type of thing," he said. "It's one of those things where you've got one, you've tried it once and it sits in the back of the safe because it's not anything you want on there for daily use or hunting or anything like that."

For Chuck and Damon Bolding, a father and son from Henderson, Nevada, the Vegas shooting brought attention to a trend that serious shooters had passed by.

"We weren't a fan of them. And they were dying off until ..." Chuck Bolding, a firearms instructor who owns a gun shop, said, letting his sentence trail off. "Most people that shoot rifles weren't going to carry them anyway. It wasn't something we endorsed; our shop never had them."

Following the shooting, the Boldings said they had noticed local security get tighter, with some casinos employing armed guards, as well as a bump in demand for guns. But the attention paid to bump stocks, they said, was troubling.

"Unfortunately it made them a novelty that was sought after," Bolding said. "It was just kind of an unfortunate incident that puts a lot of negative light on things."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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