Supreme Court grapples with whether to uphold ban on bump stocks for firearms

Supreme Court grapples with whether to uphold ban on bump stocks for firearms

The Supreme Court of Washington had a difficult decision to make on Wednesday about whether or not to support a… will remain in place until Court reviews

The ban on bump stocks under the Trump administration will continue until the Court reviews it. for firearms put in place in the wake of the 2017 mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas.

The case pertains to the classification of a bump stock as a “machine gun” according to federal law. The disagreement does not involve the Second Amendment, but rather centers on the interpretation of a statute. It questions whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had the power to ban bump stocks.

A bump stock is a device that can replace the traditional stock of a semi-automatic rifle. The stock is the part of the gun that rests against the shooter’s shoulder. With a bump stock, the rest of the gun can move back and forth while the stock remains stable. It also includes a finger rest that holds the trigger finger in place. When the gun is fired, forward pressure on the barrel causes the rifle to recoil into the stock and then bounce forward, causing the trigger to “bump” into the finger and fire another round. This allows the shooter to fire at a much faster rate than with a regular stock.

Between 2008 and 2017, it was found multiple times that bump stocks are not considered machine guns and are not controlled by federal law. However, after the mass shooting where the perpetrator used semi-automatic weapons modified with bump stocks, the previous determination was changed. According to the FBI, the addition of these devices enabled the gunman to fire 1,000 rounds of ammunition in just 11 minutes, resulting in the deaths of 58 people and injuring approximately 500 others.

“Under the updated regulation,” issued in December 2018,

The ATF concluded that a rifle with a bump stock meets the definition of a machine gun, largely due to the mechanism’s ability to produce multiple shots when the trigger is pulled. According to the agency, the device’s use of recoil energy creates a continuous back-and-forth cycle that enables the shooter to achieve sustained firing with just one pull of the trigger.


Donald Trump’s administration’s final policy

As of March 2019, a new measure was put into action. Those who possessed bump stocks were mandated to either destroy them or surrender them to the ATF. Those who refused to comply could face legal consequences.

During the process of creating the regulation, Michael Cargill, the individual involved in the case, purchased two bump stocks in April 2018. He later turned them over to the ATF once the ban was implemented, and proceeded to dispute the regulation in a Texas federal district court.

The court at the district level agreed with the ATF’s classification of rifles with bump stocks as machine guns. The decision was also upheld by a panel of three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, who determined that according to the statute, bump stocks can be considered as machine guns.

However, the entire panel of judges from the 5th Circuit invalidated the rule. In a ruling of 13-3 in January 2023, the court of appeals determined that it is the responsibility of Congress to prohibit bump stocks. Judge Jennifer Elrod, in a section of the majority opinion, stated that according to the legal definition, bump stocks do not fall under the category of machine guns. A total of twelve judges agreed with Cargill and concluded that the definition of machine gun was vague enough to warrant the application of the rule of lenity. This principle requires courts to interpret unclear criminal laws in favor of the defendant.

Several other federal appeals courts have evaluated the legality of the regulation on bump stocks. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals applied the principle of lenity and ruled in favor of Scott Hardin, who owns a bump stock. The court stated that because the law does not explicitly outlaw bump stocks, they are obligated to interpret it in Hardin’s favor.

However, a consensus of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the regulation, determining that a bump stock falls under the definition of a machine gun according to federal gun laws. This is because the device is considered a self-regulating mechanism that enables a shooter to fire multiple shots with a single pull of the trigger, as interpreted by the statute.

In April of 2023, the Biden administration requested a review by the Supreme Court of the 5th Circuit’s decision. They argued that a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a bump stock meets the criteria for a machine gun under federal law.

The attorney’s office contended that the ATF’s understanding of the term “machine gun” is accurate and optimal.

in the case Smith v Allwright were

The Supreme Court presented arguments in the case Smith v Allwright.

During the initial discussions on Wednesday, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh expressed worry about the possibility of prosecution and criminal consequences for individuals who possessed bump stocks prior to the ATF’s ban, despite being unaware of their illegal status.

Kavanaugh commented that the ATF ban could impact many individuals who are not informed of the legal restrictions. He directed this statement to Brian Fletcher, the primary deputy solicitor general who was representing the case.

Fletcher pointed out that the organization made an effort to give advanced warning regarding the prohibition and allowed individuals to turn in their devices to the ATF. However, Gorsuch countered with the statement, “because individuals sitting down and reading through the Federal Register is a common pastime for gun owners, who often do so next to a cozy fire.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett expressed her understanding and support for Fletcher’s arguments, stating that it seems the use of bump stocks mimics that of a machine gun. However, she raised the issue of why Congress did not enact clearer legislation to include bump stocks in the 1934 law.

Fletcher cautioned the judges that agreeing with Cargill’s position would greatly simplify the ability to circumvent the prohibition on machine guns.

According to the speaker, Congress passed this statute in 1934 not only for devices that were currently available, but also for potential devices that could serve the same purpose in the future. The laws were enacted and strengthened to protect the public and law enforcement from the threat of weapons that allow a shooter to fire multiple bullets with just one action, which is precisely what bump stocks do.

Mitchell, on behalf of Cargill, contended that bump stocks do not fit the definition of a machine gun for two reasons. Firstly, the bump stock’s mechanism requires the trigger to be reset and reactivated for each shot fired, therefore it does not result in multiple shots being fired “by a single function of the trigger.” Secondly, a rifle equipped with a bump stock cannot fire automatically, as the shooter must continuously perform manual actions after pulling the trigger.

According to Mr. Cargill, the bump firing process is entirely controlled by the shooter and does not involve any automated components like springs or motors in his non-mechanical bump stocks. The shooter must manually push the rifle’s forestock forward with their non-shooting hand and simultaneously apply backward pressure with their shooting hand. These actions require continuous and repeated effort from the shooter and are not automated.

The Supreme Court is anticipated to make a decision by the conclusion of June.

Melissa Quinn