Supreme Court invalidates Trump-era ban on bump stocks

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(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court on Friday invalidated a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, ruling the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives exceeded its authority in creating the regulation.

The 6-3 opinion was authored by Justice Clarence Thomas. The court’s three liberal justices, led by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissented.

The court ruled a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a “machinegun” under federal law “because it does not fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger."”

“This case asks whether a bump stock — an accessory for a semiautomatic rifle that allows the shooter to rapidly reengage the trigger (and therefore achieve a high rate of fire) — converts the rifle into a ‘machinegun.’ We hold that it does not,” Thomas wrote.

More than 700,000 bump stocks were sold since 2009 after the Obama-era ATF approved the manufacture and sale. The bump stock, which is non-mechanical, can simulate an automatic weapon, firing 400-800 rounds per minute. A fully automatic weapon, such as a M16 rifle, shoots 700-950 rounds per minute.

The ATF ban on the accessory was created in the wake of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history when a gunman opened fire at Las Vegas music festival in 2017. Fifty-nine people were killed and hundreds of others wounded.

Sotomayor, in her dissent, noted the gunman in that tragedy used the device to create rapid fire.

“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,” Sotomayor wrote. “A bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle fires ‘automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger."”

Sotomayor added, “Today’s decision to reject that ordinary understanding will have deadly consequences. The majority’s artificially narrow definition hamstrings the Government’s efforts to keep machineguns from gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the nation’s largest gun control advocacy groups, decried the court’s decision as “putting millions at risk of harm.”

President Joe Biden, in the wake of the ruling, issued a statement calling on Congress to ban bump stocks as well as assault weapons.

“Today’s decision strikes down an important gun safety regulation. Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation,” he said.

Trump’s campaign, on the other hand, said the court’s decision “should be respected” and that the “right to keep and bear arms has never been more critical.” The statement, however, did not address the fact that the ATF imposed the ban during his administration.

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