Huge victory for gun owners as Supreme Court strikes down ATF’s bump stock ban as unconstitutional
06/24/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

In a huge victory for American gun rights, the Supreme Court has struck down the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s ban on bump stocks.

At the heart of the argument was whether a bump stock is really equivalent to a machine gun. With the devices, which attach to a rifle, the recoil of the rifle will reset the trigger, thereby enabling users to get a higher rate of fire out of it. Gun rights opponents insist this “simulates automatic fire,” but those who take the time to look at how it works realize that the comparison does not really hold water.

The ATF had previously maintained that bump stocks do not, in fact, convert firearms into machine guns based on the fact that machine guns fire automatically using a single function of the trigger. In contrast, firearms equipped with bump stocks still require pulling the trigger every time a round is expelled, which means it is not technically a machine gun conversion device. In fact, some people use makeshift bump stocks so they can engage in bump firing.

The ruling boasted a 6-3 margin, and Justice Clarence Thomas issued an opinion stating: “We hold that a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machinegun’ because it cannot fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger.’ And, even if it could, it would not do so ‘automatically’.”

As a result, the court concluded that the ATF exceeded its statutory authority in establishing the rule.

It is worth noting that if they had concluded that bump stocks were machine gun conversion devices, they would be banned under the National Firearms Act of 1934. This law defines devices that convert firearms into machine guns as machine guns themselves.

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Bump stock ban meant thousands of Americans suddenly possessed illegal "machine guns"

These devices came into the spotlight after the FBI claimed the perpetrator of the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas used an AR-15 that was equipped with a bump stock to kill 50 individuals who were attending a concert at the Mandalay Bay casino and hotel. This prompted Donald Trump, who was president at the time, to ask the ATF to ban bump stocks; they complied and issued a new rule stating bump stocks are machine guns despite the same agency taking the opposite position for many years.

As a result, thousands of Americans suddenly found themselves possessing illegal "machine guns" overnight, even though the same weapons were perfectly legal before this change of definition. In other words, the government had taken something that was legal and decided to make it illegal.

Needless to say, the move did not sit well with many gun owners, and Texas gun dealer and army veteran Michael Cargill partnered with the New Civil Liberties Alliance to sue the Department of Justice over the new rule on the grounds that it was a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act because there was no Congressional action. He started the suit after being forced to surrender his bump stocks under the rule.

"The rule that the Court set aside today unlawfully confiscated over 500,000 lawfully purchased bump stocks from American citizens. It never should have been approved, and the bureaucrats responsible for this injustice should hang their heads in shame," Cargill’s attorney, Mark Chenoweth, said.

Although the ban was initiated by the Trump administration, the Biden administration defended it in court. It went through several different courts before eventually making its way to the Supreme Court, who heard the argument in February and released the opinion last week. It is expected to have a big effect on the legality of various guns and accessories because the ATF has enacted other rules using the same power, such as those governing the pistol brace. Therefore, the ruling is being considered a remarkable triumph for gun owners.

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