Facebook tried to sell me a bump stock like the Vegas gunman used

The “bump stock” — an obscure accessory that transforms a semi-automatic assault rifle into a rapid-fire machine gun — has been widely available for purchase online and in gun stores across the country for years.

And then it was used in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

On Tuesday, the devices — commonly sold under the “Slide Fires” brand — were listed online by Walmart and hunting equipment giant Cabela’s at prices ranging from about $90 to $300. But by Wednesday, Slide Fires had vanished from both companies’ websites. Cabela’s and Walmart did not respond to multiple requests for comment from VICE News.

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Their disappearance coincides with the news that gunman Stephen Paddock was equipped with 12 bump stocks for the 23 firearms he had on hand when he mowed down revelers at a country music festival in Las Vegas from his 32nd-floor hotel room on Sunday night. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured.

Bump stocks allow shooters to unleash a hail of bullets by harnessing the gun’s recoil to rapidly pull the trigger and mimic automatic fire. The devices made it possible for Paddock to fire approximately 90 rounds every 10 seconds, according to audio analysis of the gunfire.

Earlier this week, bump stocks were still being marketed aggressively by online retailers and through ads on Facebook. Like many Americans, I’d never heard of a bump stock until the aftermath of Sunday’s mass shooting, but soon after I started perusing listings for bump stocks, Cabela’s targeted me with an ad for one in my Facebook feed.

The particular bump stock that appeared on my feed was the popular “Slide Fire” — the Mercedes Benz of bump stocks — sold at Cabela’s for just $169.99. “Safe, fun and legal,” Cabela’s website said. “Unleash freedom.”

Facebook did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

There’s no legal reason not to aggressively market bump stocks. In 2012, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, led an effort to outlaw the devices, but her bill died in the Senate. The Las Vegas massacre has prompted renewed concern among other lawmakers besides Feinstein, who reintroduced the bill.

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“I don’t know anybody who goes deer hunting that needs to retrofit a gun to fire hundreds of rounds per minute,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, told NBC News. “It’s to slaughter people.” Even some Republicans weighed in, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dean Heller of Nevada.

Just like guns tend to sell well after mass shootings, it’s possible bump stocks are flying off the shelves post-Vegas. Half of the “Slide Fires” for AR-15s (the priciest ones, at that) on Slide Fire Solutions’ website are currently out of stock.

On Tuesday, I called around various Cabela’s locations to inquire about their in-store supply of bump stocks. At a Hudson, Massachusetts, location, they didn’t have any devices left in-store, but the shop assistant told me I could purchase one online and I wouldn’t need any ID, because it’s not an actual firearm.

At a Cabela’s location in Henrico, Virginia, they had only one Slide Fire left, priced at $279.99. The assistant there told me that I would need to show proof of age to purchase in-store, but nothing else. At another in Fort Mill, South Carolina, they also had one Slide Fire left, a cheaper model priced at $199.88.

There weren’t many reviews for “Slide Fires” on Cabela’s website, but most of them were positive. “A fun way to waste ammunition,” one customer wrote last month, and gave it four stars. “Loads of FUN,” wrote Mike from West Virginia. “If you enjoy shooting your AR, this makes it a blast. You can empty a 30-round map in seconds and smile like crazy spending $$$$ at the same time.”

“Most fun you can have with your clothes on,” wrote another satisfied customer.

Slide Fire Solutions is based out of Moran, Texas. Their website credits the invention of the bump stock to Jeremiah Cottle, a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts, as well as in the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom. “The honor, commitment, and perseverance that is practiced in our U.S. Military is carried over to the core beliefs and practices of our company,” the company’s website states.

Their products are manufactured to accommodate both right- and left-handed users.