Supreme Court overturns Trump-era ban on bump stocks

Gun Rights

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that a ban on bump stocks — attachments that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire more quickly — implemented by former President Donald Trump in 2017 was unconstitutional.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had overstepped its authority by classifying bump stocks as illegal machine guns.

“We conclude that semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machinegun’ [sic],” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, “because it does not fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger.’”

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that a ban on bump stocks implemented by President Donald Trump in 2017 was unconstitutional. EPA

“Even if a semiautomatic rifle with a bump stock could fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger,’” Thomas went on, “it would not do so ‘automatically.’”

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The Trump administration instituted the bump stock ban following the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas that killed 60 people and wounded hundreds more.

A Texas gun store owner, Michael Cargill, had challenged the regulation, which reversed ATF precedent from the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations that held bump stocks didn’t transform semiautomatic weapons into machine guns.

Cargill’s attorneys had argued that while bump stocks allow for rapid fire, the gunman has to put in more effort to keep the gun shooting.

Government lawyers countered the effort required from the shooter is small and doesn’t make a legal difference.

The Justice Department said the ATF changed its mind on bump stocks after doing a more in-depth examination spurred by the Las Vegas shooting and came to the right conclusion.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had overstepped its authority by classifying bump stocks as illegal machine guns. U.S. Supreme Court via Reuters

In a brief concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that while the Las Vegas mass shooting “strengthened the case for amending” federal law to ban bump stocks, it did not give the executive branch the right to do so unilaterally. 

“Now that the situation is clear, Congress can act,” Alito concluded, pointedly.

In her dissent, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited the Las Vegas shooting and claimed that gunman Stephen Paddock “did not rely on a quick trigger finger” to inflict the carnage.

“Instead, he relied on bump stocks,” Sotomayor wrote.

The Trump administration instituted the bump stock ban following the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Getty Images

“Just like a person can shoot ‘automatically more than one shot’ with an M16 through a ‘single function of the trigger’ if he maintains continuous backward pressure on the trigger, he can do the same with a bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle if he maintains forward pressure on the gun,” she added. “Today’s decision to reject that ordinary understanding will have deadly consequences. The majority’s artificially narrow definition hamstrings the Government’s efforts to keep machineguns [sic] from gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

Following the ruling, President Biden issued a statement calling on Congress to ban bump stocks, imploring, “send me a bill and I will sign it immediately.”

“Today’s decision strikes down an important gun safety regulation,” the president added. “Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation.”

Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign said it respected the court’s decision in a statement that touted his endorsement by the National Rifle Association

There were about 520,000 bump stocks in circulation when the ban went into effect in 2019, requiring people to either surrender or destroy them, at a combined estimated loss of $100 million, the plaintiffs said in court documents.

With Post wires

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