The U.S. Supreme Court says: Machine guns for everyone!

Gun Rights

It only took a gunman 11 minutes to spray more than 1,000 bullets into a crowd — from 490 yards away — at a Las Vegas country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017.

That was all the time it took to carry out the deadliest single-gunman mass shooting in U.S. history, leaving 60 people dead and more than 800 injured. And the reason for such incomprehensible carnage was the bump stock attached to the shooter’s gun that results in the rate of fire produced by machine guns.

The rampage became the rarest type of gun violence — one that actually resulted in political action. As polling showed 80% of Americans supported banning bump stocks, the then-GOP-controlled Congress could have acted.

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But instead, then-President Donald Trump issued a ban after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) determined that bump stocks do transform semiautomatic rifles into machine guns.

Last week, many people were rightfully shocked when the U.S. Supreme Court issued yet another atrocious decision striking down the ban after it was challenged by a Texas gun shop owner.

Life in 21st century America means requiring lockdown drills for kindergartners, scanning crowds for anything amiss at joyful events like parades and checking for exit routes in public places. The price of other people enjoying scant barriers to obtaining weapons of war is less freedom for the rest of us, though it’s rarely framed that way.

– Susan J. Demas

“Who has ever used a bump stock for good?” Heather Gooze, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting, told the BBC. “There’s no reason for a civilian to use a mass shooting machine.”

The tortured reasoning from Justice Clarence Thomas, while taking a break from jet-setting on his billionaire friends’ dime, was that bump stocks don’t turn weapons into machine guns due to an absurd technicality, borrowing images from the rabidly pro-gun Firearms Policy Foundation.

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor skewered the majority for legislating from the bench (a charge supposed rule-of-law conservatives have hurled at liberals for years) and concluded the decision “eviscerat[ed] Congress’s regulation of machineguns.”

President Joe Biden, whose administration defended the Trump-era ban in court, called on Congress send him legislation banning both bump stocks and assault weapons and vowed, “I will sign it immediately.”

“Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation,” Biden added.

But interestingly, a Trump campaign spokesperson didn’t criticize the court for overturning his measure. In fact, she declared that the ruling “should be respected” and stressed that Trump “has been and always will be a fierce defender of Americans’ Second Amendment rights and he is proud to be endorsed by the NRA.”

That would seem to lend credence to the theory that Trump, who’s usually in lockstep with the gun lobby, had fully expected this result from the far-right court. Taking executive action, instead of pressuring Congress to pass a bill, was essentially a setup.

Recall that Trump didn’t get any real blowback from Second Amendment groups. When he lumbered on stage at a National Rifle Association convention last year, the crowd rewarded him with minutes-long standing ovation.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of his supporters at the NRA Convention on April 14, 2023. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“I promised I would save the Second Amendment, and we’re going to save it for a long time to come — forever, as far as I’m concerned,” Trump announced.

He went even further at the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Penn., in February, proclaiming himself as “the best friend gun owners have ever had in the White House” and rewriting history on his bump stock ban.

“During my four years nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield,” Trump insisted.

The fact that the high court has essentially legalized machine guns will almost certainly have very real and chilling implications for us all. There have already been 216 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2024 — or more than one per day.

As bump stocks will once again be readily available, that terrifyingly increases the odds for even more carnage.

We’ve already known so much loss in Michigan and across the country.

Just on Saturday evening, Oakland County was the home of another mass shooting, with police saying that nine people — including 4- and 8-year-old siblings and their mother — were shot at the Brooklands Plaza Splash Pad in Rochester Hills.

Less than three years ago, a student open fired at Oxford High School, injuring eight people and killing four students: Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin.

Michigan State University students and members of surrounding communities pay their respects for victims of the mass shooting on MSU’s campus at the Rock, which is painted to read “HOW MANY MORE?” on Feb. 14, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

And on the night of Feb. 13, 2023, a gunman critically injured five students at Michigan State University and murdered three of their classmates: Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner.

My daughter was a junior at the time. If she had left campus just a few minutes later that night, I shudder to think what could have happened. Although she’s long since deleted that ominous text message from MSU to “Run, Hide, Fight,” neither of us will never forget what it looked like or the hours of terror afterward, waiting to hear back from friends that they were OK.

The day after the shooting, students painted the Rock on campus all black, emblazoned with red lettering asking: “How Many More?”

Life in 21st century America means requiring lockdown drills for kindergartners, scanning crowds for anything amiss at joyful events like parades and checking for exit routes in public places. The price of other people enjoying scant barriers to obtaining weapons of war is less freedom for the rest of us, though it’s rarely framed that way.

And with each new ghoulish Supreme Court decision on guns, we know things will get even worse.

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