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Supreme Court Strikes Down Bump Stock Ban

The Supreme Court ruled on June 14 that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) exceeded its authority when it interpreted a federal firearms statute to outlaw the use of bump stocks.

“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,’” Justice Clarence Thomas said in the court’s majority opinion.

The vote was 6–3, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing a dissent joined by the other two liberal justices. Her dissent suggested that bump stocks effectively make semiautomatic weapons into machine guns.

A bump stock is a firearm accessory that allows users to shoot at a continuous rate, resulting in hundreds of rounds fired per minute.

“When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck,” she said.

She added that the “majority’s artificially narrow definition hamstrings the Government’s efforts to keep machineguns from gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

The prohibitive measure was introduced after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which a gunman used bump stock-equipped firearms. It reversed years of ATF interpretations allowing nonmechanical bump stocks, or those without a spring.

In doing so, the ATF reinterpreted a post-prohibition law that banned the use of machine guns. It was difficult to tell from oral arguments on Feb. 28 how the justices would vote.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had initially upheld a district court decision in favor of the ATF’s rule but that decision was reversed during an en banc review. Justice Thomas’s decision upheld that review’s ruling in favor of Michael Cargill, the radio host who challenged the ATF rule.

Mr. Cargill responded to the decision with a celebratory video posted to X. He predicted the decision would prevent the ATF from pursuing regulations of triggers and other parts of firearms.

“So now, we have a case that is case law that we can move forward around this country and defend our Second Amendment rights,” he said.

Congressional Authority

Unlike with other gun rights cases, the attorneys in this case—Garland v. Cargill—didn’t talk much about the Second Amendment during oral arguments.

Rather, they sought to convince the justices that the phrases “automatically” and “single function of the trigger” within federal law (The National Firearms Act) either did or didn’t apply to bump stocks.

Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurrence on June 14 that emphasized Congress’s role. Referring to the Las Vegas shooting, he said “an event that highlights the need to amend a law does not itself change the law’s meaning.”

He added: “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. Now that the situation is clear, Congress can act.”

Justice Thomas’s opinion similarly highlighted how after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, then-Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) warned that legislation was necessary to ban bump stocks.

Following the opinion’s release, President Joe Biden and other Democratic politicians responded with warnings and calls to action.

“This is a horrible decision that will undoubtedly result in more gun deaths,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on X.

Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-Va.) called the decision “shameful” on X and called on Congress to pass a bump stock ban authored by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.). The latter posted: “An angry lawmaker is a motivated one – This fight is far from over.”

A statement from President Biden called for Congress to “ban bump stocks, pass an assault weapon ban, and take additional action to save lives – send me a bill and I will sign it immediately.”

By contrast, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.) responded by suggesting the decision restored the proper separation of powers between the executive and Congress.

“In our Constitutional republic, Congress makes the laws, not the administrative branch,” he wrote on X. “The Supreme Court just acknowledged this in a 6 to 3 decision invalidating Trump’s bump-stock ban.”

Gun rights groups celebrated the decision. “The Supreme Court has properly restrained executive branch agencies to their role of enforcing, and not making, the law,“ Randy Kozuch, Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times. ”This decision will be pivotal to NRA’s future challenges of ATF regulations.”

Gun Owners of America Director of Federal Affairs released a statement that read: “The ATF’s unilateral 180 on this issue was illegal from the start, and I’m now looking into the best way to seek compensation from ATF for being forced to destroy my legal firearm accessory in violation of my Second Amendment rights. I have already begun the process of 3D printing another bump stock.”

Single Function of the Trigger

Much of the debate during oral argument in February focused on whether bump stocks allow a single trigger pull to initiate a process by which bullets are rapidly released.

Jonathan Mitchell, the New Civil Liberties Alliance attorney arguing for Michael Cargill, repeatedly emphasized during oral argument that bump stocks only allow one bullet per trigger pull. He also argued that firing with bump stocks doesn’t meet the statutory language of “single function of the trigger” because of grammatical reasons and the fact that bump stock users have to apply pressure to maintain accelerated fire.

Principal Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher and Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson suggested instead that bump stocks allow users to initiate a process with the bump stock after a single pull of the trigger.

In his majority opinion, Justice Thomas asserted that “nothing changes when a semiautomatic rifle is equipped with a bump stock.”

He added: “The firing cycle remains the same. Between every shot, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and allow it to reset before reengaging the trigger for another shot. A bump stock merely reduces the amount of time that elapses between separate ‘functions’ of the trigger.”

He likened the device to a shooter who has a “lightning-fast trigger finger.”

Justice Sotomayor criticized the majority opinion for “maintaining a myopic focus on a trigger’s mechanics rather than on how a shooter uses a trigger to initiate fire.”

She added that “when a shooter initiates the firing sequence on a bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle, he does so with ‘a single function of the trigger’ under that term’s ordinary meaning.”

  • Rich says:

    Gerry Connolly,Dina Titus and,of course,our geriatric president have shown how stupid they really are. Fucking MORONS!! The SCOTUS just struck down a ban on bump stocks and they’re talking about Congress passing a law banning bump stocks. Does it get any dumber than that? They can’t pass a law banning them because the SCOTUS just showed that they will find the law unconstitutional. These retards are a prime example of what is wrong with our government. I’m 54 years old and I’ve been shooting firearms my entire life and we don’t use the term “machine gun” because we’re not 5 years old. They are semi-automatic rifles and with or without a bump stock they only fire ONE ROUND per depression of the trigger. If you hold the trigger the rifle will not fire again until you let go and press the trigger again. A bump stock does not change the functionality of the rifle and does not make it fire a larger number of rounds nor does it make the rifle fire faster. It’s a non mechanical addition to the rifle that can add length and possibly comfort for the shooter. These morons shouldn’t talk when they have no idea what they’re talking about. Thank God for the SCOTUS and I also thank God Trump was elected in 2016 and appointed 3 SCOTUS judges rather than Hillary appointing them. We would be so screwed if that would’ve happened.

  • JB says:

    I would not want their job for all the gold in Fort Knox.

    • Gary Lingle says:

      They say Fort Knox is empty because the Government sold all the gold to Apple to make cell phones.

  • Slim says:

    Did Sotomayor cry over this one?



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