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Las Vegas shooting survivors alarmed at US Supreme Court’s strike down of ban on rifle bump stocks

Survivors of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas and families who received somber calls hours later said they were alarmed when the U.S. Supreme Court Friday struck down a ban on the gun attachment used by the gunman who rattled off over 1,000 bullets in 11 minutes.

The Trump-era ban on bump stocks, a rapid-fire accessory that allows a rate of fire comparable to that of machine guns, was nixed in a 6-3 majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas, who authored the opinion, wrote that the Justice Department was wrong in declaring that bump stocks transformed semiautomatic rifles into illegal machines guns because they don’t “alter the basic mechanics of firing.”

The ruling was not directly about the Second Amendment, and Justice Samuel Alito concurred with Thomas but wrote a short separate opinion to stress that Congress can change the law.

“I’m pro-gun, but I don’t believe anyone should have an automatic weapon in a civilized world. It’s a bomb waiting to go off,” said Craig Link, whose brother, Victor Link, was struck in the head as the first barrage of shots rang out. Victor Link, 55, died soon after.

Link said the two were like twins, though “I never met anybody that didn’t like Victor. I met some people that didn’t like me,” he said, laughing, then welling up. Link was supposed to be at the concert with his brother, a fact that has whirled in his head ever since.

“I can’t help but think over and over again, he and I might’ve been going to get a beer when that happened, or it might’ve been me instead of him,” he said.

The gunman fired into an outdoor country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 people and wounding more than 850 among the crowd of 22,000.

Shawna Bartlett, 49, was in the front row when rounds began hailing down and her friend was struck in the back. Amid ricocheting bullets and the screams, Bartlett helped load her friend into an ambulance, and she survived.

“I’m not telling you that you can’t get a gun,” said Bartlett, but “why does anyone need a bump stock? Why does it need to be legal? People don’t use them for hunting, or in law enforcement.”

“These guns that are able to shoot way more because these bump stocks give you the power to do that. Nobody needs this stuff. It is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.

She said she struggled for years to deal with the trauma of the shooting, but things have felt much better in recent years.

“I’ve come really far in my healing process,” she said. “I can talk about it now without crying.”

Danette Meyers, who become a spokesperson for her good friends, the family of Christiana Duarte, who was slain at the concert, said she worries that even if Congress does act, it will take time.

“It’s certainly going to give someone out there the opportunity to buy one of these things and just create another mass slaughter,” Meyers said.

Meyers said she thought the Supreme Court’s “liberal dissent got it correct, when they said, `You know, it’s common sense that anything capable of initiating rapid fire would be a machine gun.’ ”

“He shot over a thousand times in about 11 minutes,″ she said.

Alvin Black, a tourist who was walking Friday on the Las Vegas Strip near the shooting site, said he likes handguns and has a shotgun at his home in North Carolina.

But “enabling people to make assault rifles more lethal and adding … a quasi-automatic function to it, it’s a terrible idea,” he said. “I don’t see in what situations that would be useful to the everyday gun owner.”

Bedayn is a corps member for the media/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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