Supreme Court Overturns Bump Stock Ban Passed After Las Vegas Massacre

Posted on: June 14, 2024, 12:07h. 

Last updated on: June 14, 2024, 12:24h.

The United States Supreme Court on Friday overturned a federal ban on the buying and selling of bump stocks, a firearm accessory that allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster.

Supreme Court bump stocks Las Vegas shooting
Semiautomatic rifles equipped with bump stocks are seen inside the Mandalay Bay suite where a shooting occurred on Oct. 1, 2017. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that a federal agency wrongly banned bump stocks in 2018. (Image: ABC News)

In 2018, just months after a crazed madman sprayed more than 1,000 bullets at an outdoor country musical festival on the Las Vegas Strip from his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay suite, then-President Donald Trump instructed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), an agency of the US Department of Justice, to reinterpret the National Firearms Act to prohibit bump stocks.

The federal law passed in 1934 is the regulatory law regarding firearms. It places a federal excise tax on the manufacturing and transferring of firearms and requires most weapons to be registered in the state where they’re owned.

The NFA has undergone many amendments, with one such change being a ban on owning machine guns and automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986. Trump directed the ATF to classify bump stocks as machine guns and, therefore, outlaw the accessories.

SCOTUS on Friday ruled that Trump and the ATF under his administration didn’t possess such authority. The 6-3 ruling, with the conservative justices in the majority, said only Congress can reclassify bump stocks as machine guns.

Controversial Ruling

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas summarized the majority opinion by explaining that a bump stock doesn’t transform a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic machine gun because the shooter still must continually trigger the weapon.

A bump stock does not alter the basic mechanics of bump firing, and the trigger still must be released and reengaged to fire each additional shot. We hold that a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machine gun’ because it cannot fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger,'” Thomas wrote.

“Even if it could, it would not do so ‘automatically.’ ATF therefore exceeded its statutory authority by issuing a rule that classifies bump stocks as machine guns,” Thomas concluded.

A bump stock replaces a semiautomatic rifle’s standard stock, which is the part of the gun barrel held against the shooter’s shoulder. The bump stock frees the weapon to allow it to move back and forth rapidly. The shooter can simply apply continual pressure to the trigger, which results in the firearm firing again and again because of the energy caused by the gun’s kickback.

The conservative majority recognized the severity of the ruling. In a separate majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito called on Congress to pass legislation to change the federal government’s codified interpretation of how machine guns are defined to include bump stocks.

“Now that the [legal] situation is clear, Congress can act,” Alito said.

Liberal Justice Scolds Majority

Writing for the minority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Stephen Paddock, the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas mass shooter, “did not rely on a quick trigger finger” but a manipulated firearm that resulted in a machine gun.

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. A bump stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle fires automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. Because I … call that a machine gun, I respectfully dissent,” Sotomayor said.

The case was brought by a Texas gun shop owner who challenged the ATF’s regulatory change. Along with Thomas and Alito in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Barrett. Along with Sotomayor, Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Jackson dissented.

US Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto scolded the SCOTUS decision.

Bump stocks like the ones used in the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival massacre in Las Vegas that left 60 dead and hundreds more injured have no place on our streets. I am extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down President Trump’s 2019 regulation,” Cortez Masto said.

Cortez Masto was an original sponsor of the Banning Unlawful Machinegun Parts (BUMP) Act. The 2018 legislation failed to garner support in the Senate, which was controlled by the GOP at the time.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have banned bump stocks.