Supreme Court agrees to decide whether AFT can ban rapid-fire stocks

FILE - A bump stock is on display in Harrisonburg, Virginia, on March 15, 2019.  A federal appeals court was told Tuesday, September 13, 2022, that there is no basis in federal law for a Trump administration ban on bump stock devices that allow a shooter to fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic weapons with a single trigger pull.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

(Steve Helber/Associated Press)

Supreme Court agrees to decide whether AFT can ban rapid-fire stocks

David G Savage

November 3, 2023

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to rule on whether the government can ban the sale or use of “bump stocks” that can turn a semiautomatic rifle into one that fires hundreds of bullets per minute with the pull of a trigger.

Since 1934, federal law has banned machine guns, but there is disagreement over whether a bump stock can be banned as a type of machine gun.

The government was prompted to adopt new rules after a Las Vegas gunman used semiautomatic weapons equipped with bump stock devices to kill 58 people and wound more than 500 others. Officials said the bump stock devices allowed the gunman to quickly fire “several hundred rounds of ammunition” into a crowd gathered for an outdoor concert on Oct. 1. 1, 2017.

Congress has not revised the law, but the Trump administration through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued new rules in 2018 that classified bump stocks as machine guns prohibited by law. It said the bump stock device functions as “a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows multiple rounds to be fired by a single pull of the trigger.”

The regulations were challenged across the country but were upheld by the 10th Circuit Court in Denver, the 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

But the conservative 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans issued a fractured 13-3 ruling in January finding the scheme illegal. Several judges said bump stocks do not operate with just one pull of the trigger, and others said it was not clear whether they could be described as machine guns.

Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar appealed the 5th Circuit’s decision and urged the justices to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.

Until the ruling is reversed, “manufacturers within the 5th Circuit [which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi] will be able to create and sell bump stocks to individuals without background checks and without registering or serializing the devices,” Prelogar said in the call.

Lawyers for Michael Cargill, a Texas gun dealer who filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, also urged the court to hear the case.

“The definition of ‘machine gun’ is an important issue of legal construction that affects many Americans. The division in the circuit leaves citizens across the country in a quandary over whether their possession of a bump stock is illegal and could potentially subject them to up to ten years in prison,” they said.

They told the court that more than 520,000 bump stocks were purchased in the years before the new regulation was passed in 2018, according to agency estimates.

The court

said the justices voted to hear the case

appeal in Garland vs. Cargill

. It

will likely see arguments early next year in Garland vs. Cargill plans and govern at the end of June.

Unlike other gun disputes, the case is not about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in a major test of the 2nd Amendment. At issue is a 5th Circuit Court ruling that struck down the federal law denying firearms to someone subject to a domestic violence restraining order.

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