Supreme Court shoots down ATF’s bump stock ban

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On a vote of 6-3, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday shot down a ban on bump stocks, which are gun attachments that make a semiautomatic weapon perform more like an automatic weapon, but with a key difference, which the court majority pointed out in its ruling.

The bump stock ban was put in place during the Trump Administration by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2018, following a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas, in which the weapon used was enhanced by a bump stock attachment. Sixty people died and over 500 were injured, leading the AT to decide that the weapon was modified into a machine gun, which is banned or civilian use by Congress.

The decision, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, said that ATF made an error of definition when it decided a federal ban on machine guns to include bump stocks.

The argument made by the plaintiffs was not a constitutional challenge based on the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms, but rather because of the ATF’s misunderstanding of how guns work.

The law defines a machine gun as any weapon that can fire more than one shot automatically and “by a single function of the trigger.”

Justice Thomas wrote that semiautomatic rifles equipped with bump stocks do not fire more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger.” Instead, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and “allow it to reset before reengaging the trigger or another shot.

The bump stock reduces the time it takes by allowing the trigger to reset quickly and even if a semiautomatic rifle that is equipped with a bump stock fires more than one shot by a single pull of the trigger, it will not do so automatically, as the law clearly states. A shooter who wants to fire multiple shots using a semiautomatic rifle with a bump stock, “must also actively maintain just the right amount of forward pressure on the rifle’s front grip with his trigger hand,” Thomas wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito concurred in a written opinion, and said that although he could understand the intent, the court must follow the law set by Congress on automatic weapons. If Congress wants the law changed, it needs to revise the statute.

“The final rule clarifies that the definition of ‘machinegun’ in the Gun Control Act (GCA) and National Firearms Act (NFA) includes bump-stock-type devices, i.e., devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter,” the explanation reads at the ATFf website.

Those who owned bump stocks were required to turn them in or destroy them.

“Current possessors of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of possession as of the effective date of the final rule (March 26, 2019),” ATF wrote. “One option is to destroy the device, and the final rule identifies possible methods of destruction, to include completely melting, shredding, or crushing the device. Any method of destruction must render the device incapable of being readily restored to function.”

All owners of gun stocks who ended up having to turn them in or destroy them were financially harmed by the rule that has now been reversed by the high court.

Read the ATF rule at this link.

Dissenting were the three liberal women of the court: Justices Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the dissenting opinion that warned of “deadly consequences.”

23 COMMENTS

  1. A more appropriate headline: “Supreme Court shoots down Trump’s unconstitutional bump stock ban”

    If there were a gun ban of any type, even bump stocks, done by a democrat, you can believe the headline would have been worded like that.

    • Ha ha ha…….what newspapers do you read, Bill?
      Newspaper headlines never disparage a Democrat’s unconstitutional actions or motives. Here’s the one that should have been headlined throughout the US:

      “Supreme Court takes down Joe Biden’s unconstitutional application of the DOJ to falsely prosecute his political enemies with taxpayer’s money.”

    • 3D Chess.
      If Trump had not asked the ATF to issue an unconstitutional rule, the public would have demanded Congress take action, and change the law. It was a brilliant Pro-2A move.

  2. Well, you can’t take guns into the Supreme Court building, nor into the family schools or churches of any of the Justices. But apparently they’re happy to let them proliferate elsewhere in ever-greater numbers, and in ever-deadlier form.

    • Hans, that’s because the US Constitution forbids our governments from restricting people’s right to keep and bear arms. This has nothing to do with being happy to let them proliferate in an uncontrolled manner. If we didn’t have the Second Amendment, I think that even more conservative politicians would be uncomfortable with what is going on, but the law is the law. If we cannot get the Second Amendment repealed through the Constitutional amendment process, we need to learn to live with it. It is what it is.

      There are pros and cons. The cons of having an armed society are pretty obvious and well-documented, but there are pros as well. For one thing, people have the ability to defend themselves from attackers, and an armed woman is a grave danger to any would-be rapist. In the #MeToo era, this pro should not be undervalued. The second pro is the fact that our government will only go so far in doing things that other governments often do elsewhere because our political officials know that pushing things further than people are willing to let them go may result in unnecessary bloodshed and serious life-threatening consequences that might get rather personal.

      We have always been a rowdy group ever since the Revolution, but as rowdy as we are, we function reasonably well. I do often think that things are messed up in America, but they just happen to be our brand of being messed up. Most other places are messed up for different or similar reasons, but their people have less of a voice in making corrections and improvements than we do.

  3. Bump stocks are just a goofy novelty item. Most semiauto rifles can be bump fired fairly easily without modification. As for Vegas, highly unlikely that the guy that supposedly did the shooting actually did it. Good ruling, but I’m exponentially more concerned about the ATF’s recent attempts to shut down private sales.
    BTW, just to clarify the statement that machine guns are ” banned for civilian use by Congress”
    is simply not true. Bringing new machine guns onto the civilian market is illegal, so they are very expensive, and an extensive background check and tax stamp are required, but civilians CAN legally own and shoot machine guns. Alaska actually has a machine gun club, The Alaska Machine Gun Association, and they have a facebook page.

  4. And one wonders about the lawyers who argued this case before the “Court”. Being a generally well-educated, erudite, and accomplished bunch, does this and other such cases ever give them pause? Do they ever have trouble sleeping at night, knowing that their work will someday result in another mass shooting? Do they ever feel even a moment’s guilt when their blood money invoices are paid? Do they ever ponder the consequences of their actions, or reflect on how their victories align with the high ideals they probably held upon entering law school many years ago?

    And above all, do they ever wonder – even just a little bit – if an active shooter with a bump stock will someday appear at their church, their synagogue, there next ABA meeting, or at their children’s school? No, probably not, sadly, for the win is everything, and all else can be damned.

    • The case was not about guns, firearms, or any other “item.”
      It was about the ATF exceeding their authority. By changing the definition of a machine gun which is codified in Federal Law, they acted unconstitutionally.
      .
      Your comment indicates clearly that you have zero understanding of the SCOTUS case, and do not actually read past the headline.

        • Anyone who actually knows the least little thing about the US Constitution and the roles of the three branches of the US government. Those are the people who care.
          .
          The people who do not care, distort the blind nature of justice to suit their desires. You want to see an outcome, and think the court should have delivered it because of your emotions. Those are the people who do not care.

  5. Sure, hans,and that guy trying to visit Gorsuch while armed meant no harm at all he was just being friendly. Note that it was a leftist.

  6. Joe Biden has threatened to murder me with an F-15, or maybe a nuke, because I own an AR-15. How do you sleep at night Whidbey Thedog, after voting for that incestous pedophile?

  7. I wonder if the left wants to stack SCOTUS with justices who rule against Trump or rule for him? Because in this case the Trump appointed justices and other “conservative” justices ruled against him while the “leftist” justices stood behind Trump.

  8. You can’t legislate firearms, simply limit civilian magazines/gun clips to a limited amount. Then it does not matter what the firearm is.

    • Surely someone as wise and knowledgeable as you are, Frank, realizes that arms (as the term is used in the 2nd A) includes the materials to use and maintain the arm. That means limiting the number of rounds one can have, is an infringement of the right to keep and bear arms. Therefore, unConstitutional.
      .
      And, no… just CA’s ban on magazines larger than 10 rounds is not proof it is Constitutional. All that means is a successful challenge has not been carried out. (Thanks to the leftist 9th…)

  9. I personally want to think Justice Sotomeyer for memorializing in a SCOTUS dissent that the modern sporting rifles (read that as AR-15) are in common use.
    Bye-bye to “assault weapon” bans.

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