Supreme Court agrees to review Trump-era ‘bump stocks’ ban on firearms

Gun Rights

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the legality of the Trump-era ban on “bump stocks,” which make semi-automatic rifles fire more quickly.

The justices were asked by the Biden administration and gun rights activists to take up the matter, on which lower courts reached differing conclusions.

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Justices will not be weighing any matters related to the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms but rather whether the Trump administration followed federal law by changing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulation of such gun attachments.

The ban on bump stocks took effect in 2019 in response to the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting, in which a 64-year-old retired postal worker used rifles to fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes into a crowd of thousands of people, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.

The Trump administration’s ban stood in contrast to the ATF’s position on the gun attachments under the Obama administration, which found in 2010 that a bump stock should not be classified as a machine gun and shouldn’t be banned under federal law.

A bump stock is seen.
A bump stock.

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit decision ruled 13-3 in January that Congress would have to change federal law to ban bump stocks.

“The definition of ‘machinegun’ as set forth in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act does not apply to bump stocks,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote for the 5th Circuit.

However, a panel of three judges on the federal appeals court in Washington came to a different conclusion.

Judge Robert Wilkins wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that “under the best interpretation of the statute, a bump stock is a self-regulating mechanism that allows a shooter to shoot more than one shot through a single pull of the trigger. As such, it is a machine gun under the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act.”

Also included in the Supreme Court’s order was an agreement to consider a National Rifle Association claim that a New York state official’s alleged role in urging companies to end ties with the gun rights group counts as unlawful coercion.

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The NRA was appealing a 2022 ruling by the 2nd Circuit, which found the actions by the then-superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services did not constitute unlawful conduct.

The Supreme Court will likely decide the cases by early summer.

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