New Years Eve Las Vegas (copy)

A Las Vegas police officer stands by a blocked off area near the Mandalay Bay casino after last October's mass shooting. The hotel was criticized for not detecting activities of the gunman before the tragedy. 

Bump stocks and trigger cranks modify semiautomatic guns to let them fire as many bullets as possible in the least amount of time. Obviously, that raises some public safety concerns.

Those concerns became tragic reality last year when a gunman in Las Vegas used bump stock-enhanced rifles to kill more than 50 people and injure 500 in what remains the worst mass shooting in modern America.

Even the National Rifle Association called for a ban on bump stocks and similar devices in the wake of that massacre. But Congress, too cowardly to enact even the most sensible and non-controversial of gun reforms, has yet to act.

At least seven states and a few local governments, including Columbia and Richland County, took matters into their own hands. Charleston could be next if the city Public Safety Committee approves an ordinance banning bump stocks and trigger cranks on Thursday.

It merits approval.

A ban on dangerous gun enhancements that ends at Charleston city limits won’t do much to keep deadly tools out of the hands of violent people. But passing the ordinance sends a message to state and federal lawmakers that South Carolina’s largest city takes gun violence seriously and demands reasonable action to keep people safe.

And Charleston has a particularly painful connection to gun violence. The ordinance references the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in 2015 that left nine innocent men and women dead. Our community still grieves their loss.

In the years since that shooting, too many South Carolina lawmakers have been frustratingly unwilling to pass even modest gun reforms.

Opponents of the bump stock ban say it would run afoul of a state law that largely prevents municipalities from imposing gun regulations. Columbia’s ban is facing a lawsuit, and opponents have threatened to sue Richland County as well.

But bump stocks are not guns.

In fact, bump stocks and trigger cranks ought to be considered illegal nationwide, even without congressional action. Existing law bans automatic weapons. That prohibition should logically extend to modifications that make legal guns function like illegal ones.

But for now, uniquely dangerous gun add-ons remain available in too many cities and states. Charleston need not be one of them.

If enough cities and states take a stand on a small but common-sense public safety measures, perhaps Congress will take note. After all, bump stocks and trigger cranks are a far less imminent threat than the prospect of dangerous people buying deadly weapons.

Without laws that close loopholes and expand background checks, it’s all too easy for people who shouldn’t have guns to buy them.

Until then, Charleston has a welcome opportunity to take action — even if it’s just symbolic action — to protect residents’ safety. Ban bump stocks and trigger cranks.

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