Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Supreme Court rules gun ‘bump stocks’ ban is unlawful

By 37ci3 Jun14,2024

WASHINGTON — In a setback for the Biden administration, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that a federal ban on “shell stocks,” gun accessories that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more quickly, is illegal.

At 6-3 dominates over ideological lineswith the court’s conservative majority ruling that an almost 100-year-old law aimed at banning machine guns could not legally be interpreted to include bump stocks.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said a firearm equipped with an accessory does not meet the federal law’s definition of a “machine gun.”

A bump stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the rate of fire appears at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem.
A bump stock, left, on display at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah on Oct. 4, 2017. George Frey/Reuters file

The decision drew strong opposition from liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“Whenever I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck,” he wrote, referring to the bump stocks that make semi-automatic rifles work like machine guns. Sotomayor also took the rare step of reading a summary of her dissent in court.

Even with a federal ban out of the picture, bump stocks still won’t be readily available across the country. Eighteen states have already banned them, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control nonprofit group. Congress can also act.

Nevertheless, gun control advocates condemned the verdict.

“We’ve seen multiple stocks cause great destruction and violence,” said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, director of litigation at the Giffords Law Center. “The majority of judges today have sided with the gun lobby over the safety of the American people. This is a shameful decision.”

After that, the Trump administration banned it Mass shooting in Las Vegas In 2017, Stephen Paddock used a shotgun to open fire on a country music festival, initially killing 58 people. Then-President Donald Trump called personally to ban the accessory.

Sotomayor cited the Las Vegas shooting as an example in her dissent.

“All he had to do was pull the trigger and push the gun forward. The bump stick did the rest,” he wrote.

He added that the ruling “undermines government efforts to keep machine guns from gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito concurred, acknowledging that, in practical terms, a muzzleloader is too similar to a machine gun, and said Congress could act to ban the accessory.

The “horrific shooting spree” in Las Vegas bolstered the case for the legislation, showing that “a holstered semi-automatic rifle can have the same lethal effect as a machine gun.”

Supreme Court in 2019 refused to block regulation. The already conservative court has since tilted further to the right, with Trump appointing conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020.

Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority in previous cases supporting gun rights.

The National Firearms Act was passed in 1934 to regulate machine guns in response to Prohibition-era gangster violence.

The lawsuit was filed by Texas-based gun owner Michael Cargill, a licensed dealer who owned two stocks before the ban went into effect and later turned them over to the government.

“More than five years ago, I swore an oath that I would defend the Constitution of the United States even if I was the only plaintiff in the case. I did it,” he said in response to the decision.

Bump stocks use the recoil energy of the trigger pull to allow the user to fire hundreds of rounds in what the federal government calls a “single action.”

Cargill’s lawyers say it’s a difficult skill to master.

Some gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, initially supported then-President Donald Trump’s move to regulate bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting, but have since opposed it.

This case does not address the scope of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Opponents argue that the government has no authority under the 1934 law to ban stock dipping.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 defined “weapon” to include accessories “used in the conversion of a weapon” to a machine gun, and the ATF concluded that bump stocks fit that definition.

Much of the legal battle hinged on the definition of a machine gun as a weapon capable of firing multiple rounds automatically “with a single trigger function.”

The government argued that the phrase refers to the actions of the shooter and requires one action to fire more than one shot. Cargill’s lawyers argued that it refers to the action inside the firearm when the trigger is pulled. Since a bump stock still required pulling the trigger for each shot, it wasn’t a machine gun, they argued.

The Supreme Court accepted Cargill’s argument, Thomas wrote, that a trigger-actuated firearm does not constitute a machine gun because it “cannot fire more than one shot” with a single function of the trigger.

“ATF therefore exceeded its statutory authority by issuing a rule classifying bump stocks as machine guns,” he said.

Lower courts have split on the issue, with both the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati ruling that the ban was illegal.

The Biden administration appealed both cases, while gun rights advocates challenged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s decision upholding the ban.

The Supreme Court has directly upheld gun rights in Second Amendment cases, including a 2022 decision that established the right to carry a handgun outside the home.

But in one case argued in November a court has indicated it may refuse to overturn some longstanding gun laws in a case that bars people accused of domestic violence from possessing firearms.

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By 37ci3

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