The United States Supreme Court has agreed to address a crucial legal question concerning the ban on rapid-fire ‘bump stocks.’ These devices have been at the center of a contentious debate on gun control in the country. The Court’s decision will determine whether the government can restrict the sale and use of bump stocks, which can significantly increase the firing rate of semi-automatic rifles.
A Longstanding Dispute
Federal law has prohibited machine guns since 1934, but there has been an ongoing disagreement over whether bump stocks should be categorized as machine guns and thus banned. These devices can modify a semi-automatic rifle to fire hundreds of rounds per minute with a single pull of the trigger, leading to concerns over public safety.
The Las Vegas Tragedy
The tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 intensified the discussion surrounding bump stocks. The perpetrator used semi-automatic weapons equipped with these devices to unleash rapid gunfire into a crowd, resulting in 58 fatalities and over 500 injuries. The shocking incident prompted the government to reevaluate the legality of bump stocks and whether they should be treated as machine guns.
Trump Administration’s Regulations
In 2018, the Trump administration, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), introduced new rules classifying bump stocks as machine guns, thus making them illegal. The ATF reasoned that these devices function as "self-acting or self-regulating mechanisms" that enable the rapid discharge of multiple rounds with a single trigger pull.
The regulation faced legal challenges across the country, with different circuit courts providing varying rulings. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the regulations. However, the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans issued a divided 13-3 ruling that declared the regulation illegal. Several judges contended that bump stocks don’t exclusively function with a single trigger pull, raising questions about whether they meet the criteria for machine guns.
Solicitor General’s Appeal
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar appealed the 5th Circuit’s decision, urging the Supreme Court to swiftly address this legal dispute. Until the ruling is overturned, the 5th Circuit’s jurisdiction, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, allows manufacturers to produce and sell bump stocks without background checks or registration.
The legal ambiguity surrounding the classification of bump stocks has left citizens across the nation uncertain about their possession. This ongoing circuit split raises questions about the legality of owning bump stocks and the potential consequences. The situation is significant because, according to bureau estimates, over 520,000 bump stocks were purchased in the years leading up to the 2018 regulation.
The Supreme Court is expected to schedule arguments for the case known as Garland vs. Cargill early next year, with a ruling anticipated by late June. The outcome of this case will have far-reaching implications for gun control and the regulation of devices like bump stocks.
Supreme Court’s Decision on Bump Stock Ban
Did a ‘bump stock’ ban overrule federal authority?
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently delivered a decision that has sparked a division among federal appellate courts. In their ruling, the court contended that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had overstepped its jurisdiction by implementing a 2017 ban on "bump stock" devices. These devices enable shooters of semi-automatic firearms to increase their firing rate significantly.
Why did Biden ask the Supreme Court for a ‘bump stock’ appeal?
In a move made on April 7, President Joe Biden’s administration has requested the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its appeal. This appeal is in response to a lower court’s ruling that went against the federal ban on "bump stock" devices, which facilitate semiautomatic weapons to mimic the rapid firing of machine guns.
Can a bump stock be a machine gun?
Federal appeals courts have reached varying conclusions regarding the alignment of the regulation categorizing bump stocks as machine guns with federal law. The Supreme Court has decided to examine the appeal put forth by the Biden administration, which contests a ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that nullified the ban.
Should the rule of lenity prevail in a bump stock ban?
Samp’s organization previously advocated for the rule of lenity in similar circumstances, as evident in their unsuccessful 2021 petition to the Supreme Court. The petition sought a review of the 10th Circuit’s ruling, which upheld the ATF’s bump stock ban.
What are bump stocks and why are they controversial?
Bump stocks enable a shooter to discharge hundreds of rounds per minute with a single trigger pull. These devices, when attached to rifles, effectively mimic the rapid firing of machine guns. Due to their extreme firepower, Congress imposed a ban on such weapons, deeming them highly dangerous. The Justice Department highlighted this concern in a filing to the Supreme Court.
Will the Supreme Court review a Trump ban on bump stocks?
The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will examine a legal challenge to the federal ban on bump stocks. This ban was initiated by the Trump administration in response to the use of these devices in a tragic mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip in 2017. Stay updated on politics with The 5-Minute Fix Newsletter delivered to your inbox on weekdays.
Are bump stocks legal?
The Supreme Court has decided to address a challenge to the federal ban on bump stocks, which are devices enabling the rapid firing of semiautomatic rifles, potentially discharging hundreds of bullets per minute. Federal appeals courts have reached different conclusions regarding the legality of this ban. Please note that this is an evolving story and will be continuously updated.
Did gun rights groups challenge the federal ban on bump stocks?
Gun rights organizations had contested the federal regulation. However, the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined two appeals filed by gun owners aiming to overturn the federal ban on the sale of bump stocks. These devices enable a semi-automatic firearm to fire multiple shots with a single trigger pull.