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Las Vegas Gunman Had Device That Lets Guns Fire Like Automatic

LAS VEGAS (AP/CBS) — The man who unleashed hundreds of rounds of gunfire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas had accessories that could have allowed his semi-automatic rifles to fire rapidly and continuously, as if they were fully automatic weapons, officials said.

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Though legally and widely available, the so-called "bump stocks" have attracted scrutiny from authorities and lawmakers in recent years.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has long railed against them. Several years ago, she told The Associated Press she was concerned about the emergence of new technologies that could retrofit firearms to effectively make them fully automatic.

"This replacement shoulder stock turns a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute," she said.

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A semi-automatic weapon requires one trigger pull for each round fired. With a fully automatic firearm, one trigger pull can unleash continuous rounds until the magazine is empty. The "bump-stock" devices work by manipulating the trigger mechanism extremely rapidly, far faster than a person could do so without them.

WBZ security analyst and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says the modification tools should not be available.

"There's no reason to have fully automatic weapons of war on our streets," Davis said. "That's really what this is and that's what they were utilized for and we really have to do something about it."

Davis said the weapons become "much more efficient killing machines" on full automatic.

"So just flicking the lever up or modifying the gun so that it does go full automatic is the difference between killing four people or 40 people, that's really the difference," Davis said.

Ed Davis On Bump-Stock Devices

Federal officials say the shooter had devices attached to 12 weapons that allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic fully automatic gunfire.

Authorities say Paddock opened fire from the windows of his 32nd floor hotel room late Sunday, killing 59 people and wounding hundreds more at a country music festival. Police stormed his room and found he had killed himself after committing the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Witnesses and law enforcement officials said the quick, 50-round bursts of gunfire raised the possibility that Paddock had used a fully automatic weapon or modified his semi-automatic rifles to function like one. Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had 23 guns in his hotel room.

Yet the purchasing of fully automatic weapons has been significantly restricted in the U.S. since the 1930s.

stephen paddock
Stephen Paddock. (Photo credit: CBS News)

In 1986, the federal National Firearms Act was amended further to prohibit the transfer or possession of machine guns by civilians, with an exception for those previously manufactured and registered.

Numerous attempts to design retrofits failed until recent years when bump stocks came on the market.

The device basically replaces the gun's shoulder rest, with a "support step" that covers the trigger opening. By holding the pistol grip with one hand and pushing forward on the barrel with the other, the shooter's finger comes in contact with the trigger. The recoil causes the gun to buck back and forth, "bumping" the trigger.

Technically, that means the finger is pulling the trigger for each round fired, keeping the weapon a legal semi-automatic.

Watch: Body Cam Video From Shooting

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said he is "absolutely" confident authorities will find out what set off Paddock

Authorities released police body camera video that showed the chaos of the attack as officers tried to figure out the location of the shooter and shuttle people to safety. Amid sirens and volleys of gunfire, people yelled "they're shooting right at us" while officers shouted "go that way!"

Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the shooting spanned between nine and 11 minutes.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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