Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Bump Stock Ban Case

Supreme Court Addresses Bump Stock Ban Case

( – The US Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case that could see the Donald Trump-era ban on bump stocks overturned. The gun accessories were banned after a mass murderer used them to fire over 1,000 rounds at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017, killing 60 people and wounding hundreds more. However, the legality of the ban has been challenged in multiple lawsuits. Now one of those has made it to the Supreme Court.

What Are Bump Stocks?

A bump stock is a component that can be fitted to a semi-automatic rifle in place of its standard stock and pistol grip. It’s built so that when the trigger is pulled and the rifle is fired, the weapon is pushed back into the stock by its recoil. When the recoil impulse ends (by which time the rifle has ejected the spent case and chambered a new round) a spring in the stock pushes the weapon forward. Because the shooter is holding the pistol grip, and the trigger is moving forward with the rifle, the fresh round is immediately fired.

The effect is to make a semi-automatic rifle operate like an automatic weapon, firing continuously as long as the trigger is held down. In fact, fire from a bump stock rifle is notoriously inaccurate and unreliable, but they were mainly fun accessories with no actual practical use.

Before 2017, the status of bump stocks was controversial and focused on technical interpretations of the National Firearms Act (NFA), which regulated machine guns. The NFA defines a machine gun as a firearm that can automatically fire more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger.” In 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) ruled that because the trigger of a bump stock-equipped rifle moves with each shot, it isn’t a machine gun.

However, after Stephen Paddock used multiple bump stocks in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre President Trump ordered the ATF to ban them. The ATF looked at the NFA again and decided that because a bump stock lets you fire multiple shots with a single pull of the trigger, not a single movement, they actually are machine guns after all –- and the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act bans civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after 1986, including all bump stocks.

Justices Consider Challenge

In the wake of the ban –- which was supported by the National Rifle Association –- there were at least seven legal challenges to it. On February 28 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in one, Garland v Cargill, which argues that the ATF exceeded its powers in re-interpreting the NFA.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has already noted that the challenge doesn’t depend on the Second Amendment. So far it’s hard to say how the court will rule on this, with no decision expected until June. In the meantime, bump stocks are still classed as illegal machine guns.

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