Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on bump…

Gun Rights

On Saturday’s episode of The Excerpt podcast: USA TODAY Supreme Court Correspondent Maureen Groppe puts a high court decision surrounding gun bump stocks in context. A judge orders Alex Jones’ personal assets to be liquidated and paid to Sandy Hook families. A Southwest Airlines jet was damaged during a flight last month after it experienced a Dutch roll manuever. USA TODAY Breaking News and Education Reporter Zach Schermele discusses how one Montana mayor is refusing to recognize Pride. Forecasters warn of a dangerous and potentially record-breaking heat wave next week. Euro 2024 kicks off.

Hit play on the player below to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript beneath it.  This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

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Taylor Wilson:

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Good morning, I’m Taylor Wilson. And today is Saturday, June 15th, 2024. This is The Excerpt.

Today the Supreme Court has ruled on bump stocks, plus a look at how one mayor won’t celebrate Pride, and how the community is responding.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that devices that turn a semiautomatic rifle into something closer to a machine gun are legal. I spoke with USA TODAY Supreme Court Correspondent Maureen Groppe, to put the ruling in context.

Maureen, thanks for hopping on.

Maureen Groppe:

Happy to be here.

Taylor Wilson:

So let’s just start with this. For folks who may not know what are bump stocks?

Maureen Groppe:

They are devices that turn a semiautomatic rifle into something closer to a machine gun. The bump stock harnesses the recoil of the rifle to accelerate trigger pulls, technically bumping the trigger for each shot after it bounces off the shooter’s shoulder. When it does that, a rifle can fire 400 to 800 rounds a minute.

Taylor Wilson:

So what did this ruling from the high court this week decide?

Maureen Groppe:

Well, the Supreme Court said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was wrong when it said in 2018 that a bump stock met the legal definition of a machine gun so it could be banned.

Taylor Wilson:

And what led up to this decision?

Maureen Groppe:

The Trump administration classified bump stocks as machine guns after the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history. A gunman used bump stocks on some of his many weapons when he fired at concert goers in Las Vegas in 2017, killing 58 people. After the Federal government reclassified bump stocks as machine guns, Michael Cargill, he’s a gun shop owner and a gun rights advocate from Texas. He sued the government over the ban. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with him, and the Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court.

Taylor Wilson:

And after this Supreme Court decision, Maureen, how were gun rights advocates responding? And what did gun control or gun safety advocates say here?

Maureen Groppe:

The National Rifle Association said that the Supreme Court was right when it found that the executive branch was trying to rewrite the law when only Congress can do that. The NRA also said that this decision will help them fight other regulations. And gun safety advocates say now that the Supreme Court has struck this down, that Congress needs to step in and definitively ban bump stocks.

Taylor Wilson:

And Donald Trump’s White House banned bump stocks. Have we heard from him or his campaign about this decision?

Maureen Groppe:

We haven’t heard from Trump himself. A campaign spokesperson put out a statement saying the Supreme Court’s decision should be respected. The statement though didn’t mention Trump’s past efforts to ban bump stocks. Instead, it emphasized his endorsement from the NRA.

Taylor Wilson:

You mentioned Congress. Does this now bring power over this issue to Congress or what’s next on this?

Maureen Groppe:

Well, Democrats in Congress say they’re ready to ban bump stocks, but of course they need Republican votes to do it. So I would expect this to be an issue that we will hear about on the campaign trail more than we’re going to hear about it on the floor of Congress.

Taylor Wilson:

All right. Maureen Groppe covers the Supreme Court for USA TODAY. Thanks Maureen.

Maureen Groppe:

Thank you.

Taylor Wilson:

A U.S. bankruptcy judge yesterday ordered a court-supervised liquidation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s personal assets. Though he dismissed the bankruptcy of his company, Free Speech Systems, without ordering it to be liquidated. The ruling for now allows his website to stay online. U.S. bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez anointed a Chapter 7 trustee to sell Jones’s assets, including his ownership stake in Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his Infowars website. Proceeds will go to pay relatives of 20 students and six staff members killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The split ruling will mean more litigation between Jones, his company, and the Sandy Hook families. Jones claimed for years that the Sandy Hook killings were staged with actors as part of a government plot to seize Americans guns. He has since acknowledged that the shooting happened.

A Southwest Airlines jet was damaged during a flight last month after it experienced an unusual maneuver called a Dutch roll. The flight was en-route from Phoenix to Oakland on May 25th when the incident occurred. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane sustained substantial damage to its tail section as a result of the maneuver but was able to complete the flight. The damage was only discovered during a post-flight inspection. The rudder’s standby power control unit or PCU was damaged. The unit is a backup system in case the main rudder power unit becomes inoperable. No injuries were reported as a result of the maneuver. Tracking data from FlightAware shows that the aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 was sent back to Boeing on June 6th. Boeing referred to Southwest for comment, and Southwest referred to the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.

A federal judge in Louisiana yesterday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing in four states a new rule that protects LGBTQ+ students from discrimination based on their gender identity in schools and colleges. A U.S. district judge issued a preliminary injunction barring a U.S. education department rule that extended sex discrimination protections under Title IX to LGBTQ+ students from taking effect in the Republican-led states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, and Idaho. Those states had argued that unless the rule was blocked, schools would be required to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms conforming to their gender identities.

Meanwhile, as Pride Month continues in June, one Montana mayor won’t recognize it. I spoke with USA TODAY breaking news and education reporter, Zach Schermele, for more. Zach, thanks for hopping on.

Zach Schermele:

Thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

So Zach, can you just start by telling us about this incident at a local Montana bar?

Zach Schermele:

I think a really important place to start here, Taylor, with this story of what’s happening in this Montana town, which by the way is where I was born and raised, and formerly worked as a local TV reporter, is an incident from last February, that’s February of 2023. A gay woman was hit by a car outside of a place called the Cowboys Bar in Great Falls. That’s a city of about 60,000 people in North Central Montana. According to a court affidavit, a witness told police that a man who the affidavit says was asked to leave the bar, got into an altercation with this woman. Who by the way, her friend says is not transgender. But according to the affidavit, this man voiced displeasure with her for being transgender.

According to police, the man hit her with his truck and fled the scene. And she had a fractured pelvis along with a severe puncture wound to her left leg. She went to the emergency room and was in the hospital for more than a month according to her friend. Police say the man was John Carr, who has pleaded not guilty to two felony charges. He told police he was just trying to fix a dent in his fender. He’s currently not in custody.

Taylor Wilson:

About a year and a half later, Zach, Great Falls Mayor Corey Reeves is refusing to honor Pride Month. What does he say about this, and what’s that decision functionally mean?

Zach Schermele:

Right? I gave all that context about the incident in February because I think it’s a really vital way to frame what’s going on here. A few months after that incident in February happened, the mayor at the time, Bob Kelly, proclaimed June as LGBTQ Pride Month for the first time in the city’s history.

Now Pride Month proclamations, Taylor, really are pretty mainstream in this country, at least nationally. On June 3rd, the same day that the now current Mayor Corey Reeves, a former county undersheriff, who was just elected last year, said he wasn’t going to be honoring Pride Month. The U.S. Conference of Mayors issued their annual statement celebrating Pride. In smaller cities like this one, they often serve as kind of a temperature check for progress toward LGBTQ equality. Though they’re mostly ceremonial, they can play a vital role in signaling both to queer people and those who would do them harm, the strength of a city’s resolve to defend its LGBTQ residents.

Taylor Wilson:

Yeah. I’m curious what locals say about this decision not to recognize Pride formally. Are some celebrating and recognizing it anyway? And are some residents on board with this decision from the mayor? How are folks in Great Falls responding?

Zach Schermele:

Something I learned from having spent most of my life here and having covered the state, Taylor, is that libertarian values are really part of the fabric of state and local politics here. The current mayor, in fact, worked alongside a sheriff who balked it enforcing mask mandates at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reeves, the mayor says this whole debacle isn’t about discriminating against LGBTQ. In fact, he says he firmly supports everyone. His concern is that the government shouldn’t be, in his words, condemning or celebrating who should love whom. Now there are certainly people with whom that logic has resonated, but there are also queer folks who are scared about what type of message that sends to people who would hurt them if they felt like they could get away with it.

Taylor Wilson:

You know you touched on this a bit, Zach, but how does this story out of Great Falls reflect really a broader ebb and flow of inclusivity toward LGBTQ+ residents in small cities, and rural towns around the country? And also how did the state decisions and laws play into this?

Zach Schermele:

There’s this concept that a lot of queer people and academics talk about, Taylor, called gay flight or gay migration, and it reflects trends that we saw in the last century in the wake of the AIDS epidemic and when civil rights for LGBTQ people looked a lot different, of queer and trans people who were concentrated in urban pockets. So think the Castro in San Francisco, or Chelsea in Manhattan. But data shows that millions of queer and trans people live in rural places, and a lot of them have been affected by record numbers of anti-LGBTQ laws that have been passed at the state level in recent years. So the onus has really shifted recently onto lots of municipal governments to codify protections for the community, which is part of why I think the story is really important and interesting.

Taylor Wilson:

And Zach, what do experts and also members of the queer community say about the importance of Pride Month designations and events?

Zach Schermele:

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, Taylor. And based on the reporting, it seems to me that a lot of LGBTQ people aren’t worried so much about what a Pride Month designation means, so much as they’re worried about what the lack of one means. What does that signal to people who hold anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the community about what a government is willing to tolerate? Six days after the mayor made this controversial decision in Great Falls, a local pastor at a queer-friendly church here said she found a homophobic note tacked to her door. That’s really something to think about.

Taylor Wilson:

Zach Schermele covers education and breaking news for USA TODAY. Thank you, Zach.

Zach Schermele:

Thanks.

Taylor Wilson:

Forecasters warn a dangerous and potentially record-breaking heat wave will spread across much of the central and eastern U.S. next week. The incoming heat could set records from Texas to New England, and will put people not prepared for the extreme temperatures at risk. May of this year marked the 12th straight month of record-high temperatures for the planet. How can we keep people safe as heat waves get more extreme? Kathy Baughman McLeod, CEO of Climate Resilience for All has ideas to share. Tune into The Excerpt tomorrow beginning at 5:00 A.M. Eastern Time as my co-host, Dana Taylor, talks with this heat czar about what comes next as our world continues to grow hotter. You can find the episode right here on this feed.

The 2024 Euros continue today. The soccer tournament kicked off yesterday as host, Germany, rolled over Scotland five to one. Today, Hungary will take on Switzerland before Spain battles Croatia, and Italy plays Albania. Matches run from 9:00 A.M. Eastern, through this afternoon.

A big summer of soccer continues next week when the Copa America kicks off. The U.S. will play its first game in that tournament a week from Sunday, versus Bolivia. You can follow along with USA TODAY Sports.

Thanks for listening to The Excerpt. You can get the podcast wherever you get your audio, and if you’re on a smart speaker, just ask for The Excerpt. I’ll be back Monday, with more of The Excerpt from USA TODAY.

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