Supreme Court Overturns Bump Stock Ban

A federal ban on bump stocks enacted by the Trump administration was struck down by the Supreme Court on Friday. According to the court, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) exceeded its statutory authority with its ban on bump stocks after a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.

In the 2017 shooting, Stephen Paddock had opened fire on a country music festival using firearms equipped with bump stocks, leading to the death of up to 58 people.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion that bump stocks, a device that reduces the length of time between trigger pulls in semi-automatic firearms when attached, cannot be prohibited under existing law as equipping rifles with them does not make them become machine guns.

“This case asks whether a bump stock — an accessory for a semi-automatic rifle that allows the shooter to rapidly reengage the trigger (and therefore achieve a high rate of fire) — converts the rifle into a ‘machinegun.’ We conclude that semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machinegun’ because it does not fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger,’” Thomas wrote.

The ruling was split 6-3, with Justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh joining Thomas in the decision. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, the liberals on the court, all stood on the dissenting side.

Alito wrote a concurring opinion on the ruling, saying that banning bump stocks would take new congressional legislation.

“The horrible shooting spree in Las Vegas in 2017 did not change the statutory text or its meaning. That event demonstrated that a semiautomatic rifle with a bump stock can have the same lethal effect as a machinegun. There is a simple remedy for the disparate treatment of bump stocks and machineguns. Congress can amend the law—and perhaps would have done so already if ATF had stuck with its earlier interpretation,” he wrote.

The court began looking at the case after Michael Cargil, a gun shop owner, filed a lawsuit against the government, seeking a reversal of the ban after he turned in two of his bump stocks to the authorities.

The ban had initially been ruled against by the 5th and 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.