US Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks

Gun Rights

The US Supreme Court has struck down a ban on bump stocks, the rapid-fire gun accessory used in the deadliest mass shooting in America.

The ban was enacted after bump stocks were used during a mass shooting in 2017 when a gunman in Las Vegas had opened fire on a country music festival killing a total of 60 people and leaving around 400 others wounded.

About the SCOTUS ruling

The apex court, by a six-three majority on Friday (June 14), found the federal ban on bump stock devices, which enable semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns, was unlawful. 

The ruling authored by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said the SCOTUS is upholding a lower court’s decision which sided with Michael Cargill, a Texas gun shop owner who challenged the Trump-era ban. 

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Cargill said that the US agency improperly interpreted a federal law banning machine guns as extending to bump stocks. The decision was supported by the highest court’s conservative majority, with liberal justices dissenting.

The SCOTUS found that the Trump administration overstepped when it declared bump stocks transformed semiautomatic rifles into illegal machine guns because each trigger depression in rapid succession still only releases one shot, Thomas wrote.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who opposed the verdict said, “Today, the Court puts bump stocks back in civilian hands,” adding that the decision “will have deadly consequences.” 

During the hearing, justices on the conservative-led court appeared sceptical of the ban due to minor technical differences between bump-stock gun fires and machine guns. 

The arguments in the case were focused on whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) overstepped its authority.  

The Las Vegas mass shooting was carried out by a high-stakes gambler who fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd in 11 minutes, sending thousands of people fleeing in terror. The gunman later killed himself, leaving his motive a mystery. 

SC ruling criticised

The ban was considered exceptional considering it was enacted by a Republican president who has been supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The incumbent ATF Director Steve Dettelbach said that bump stocks “pose an unacceptable level of risk to public safety.” 

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo, a Republican who has refused to sign several gun control measures passed by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature, said while he supports Second Amendment rights he is “disappointed” by the court decision. 

Victims of the 2017 mass shooting also expressed their shock and disappointment over the the ruling. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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