Supreme Court Strikes Down Bump Stock Ban

The Supreme Court tossed out a Trump administration-era ban on bump stocks Friday.

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) exceeded its authority when it issued a rule classifying firearms equipped with bump stocks as machine guns. The case, Garland v. Cargill, challenged the ban enacted following the 2017 Las Vegas concert mass shooting, which the ATF implemented by interpreting a federal law restricting the transfer or possession of machine guns to include bump stocks.

“Semiautomatic firearms, which require shooters to reengage the trigger for every shot, are not machineguns,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. “This case asks whether a bump stock—an accessory for a semiautomatic rifle that allows the shooter to rapidly reengage the trigger (and therefore achieve a high rate of fire)—converts the rifle into a ‘machinegun.’ We hold that it does not and therefore affirm.”

A bump stock device can be added to a semi-automatic rifle to assist the user in bump firing, using the weapon’s recoil to help “bump” the trigger against the finger and fire more quickly.

Under the National Firearms Act, a “machine gun” is defined as a weapon that automatically shoots more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger.”

The majority’s opinion, which includes diagrams showing the internal mechanisms of the trigger, explains that “nothing changes when a semiautomatic rifle is equipped with a bump stock.”

“The firing cycle remains the same,” Thomas wrote. “Between every shot, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and allow it to reset before reengaging the trigger for another shot.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the “horrible shooting spree in Las Vegas in 2017 did not change the statutory text or its meaning.”

“There is a simple remedy for the disparate treatment of bump stocks and machineguns,” he wrote. “Congress can amend the law—and perhaps would have done so already if ATF had stuck with its earlier interpretation.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrote that the majority’s ruling “will have deadly consequences.”

“When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck,” Sotomayor wrote, arguing that Congress’ language naturally encompasses bump stocks.

Mark Chenoweth, president of the organization behind the case, the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), said in a statement that his firm is “delighted that the Court has vindicated our client’s position that ATF does not have the power to rewrite criminal laws.”

“The statute Congress passed did not ban bump stocks, and ATF does not have the power to do so on its own,” Chenoweth said. “This result is completely consistent with the Constitution’s assignment of all legislative power to Congress.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.




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