U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Bump Stocks Used in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Bump Stocks Used in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

[TheChronicle.cc] –On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a rule established after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that classified semiautomatic rifles equipped with bump stock attachments as machine guns, which are generally prohibited under federal law.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, argued that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) overstepped its authority in banning bump stocks. Thomas, a staunch advocate for Second Amendment rights, maintained that bump stocks are distinct from machine guns.

“Nothing changes when a semiautomatic rifle is equipped with a bump stock,” Thomas wrote. “Between every shot, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and allow it to reset before reengaging the trigger for another shot.”

The decision in *Garland v. Cargill* was a 6-3 ruling, reflecting the court's ideological divide.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, representing the court's liberal wing, dissented, emphasizing the risks of reinstating bump stocks in civilian hands.

“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.’ Because I, like Congress, call that a machine gun, I respectfully dissent.”

                                   Gun Safety Setback

The White House criticized the ruling. 

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

Biden urged Congress to ban bump stocks and assault weapons, though such legislation faces significant obstacles with a Republican-controlled House and a narrowly Democratic Senate.

“Bump stocks have played a devastating role in many horrific mass shootings in our country,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “Sadly, it’s no surprise to see the Supreme Court roll back this necessary public safety rule as they push their out-of-touch extreme agenda.”


                  Background of the Trump-Era Rule

The case originated from a regulation issued during the Trump administration after the Las Vegas shooting, where a gunman used rifles with bump stocks to fire into a crowd at a music festival, resulting in 58 deaths and over 500 injuries.

In 2018, the ATF classified bump stocks as illegal machine guns, requiring owners to surrender or destroy them to avoid criminal penalties.

Michael Cargill, a gun shop owner in Austin, Texas, challenged the rule after surrendering two bump stocks. While a U.S. district court dismissed his case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit sided with Cargill, stating that the 1986 definition of a machine gun does not encompass bump stocks since they do not enable automatic firing with a single trigger pull.

The Biden administration appealed the 5th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court.

                               Supreme Court Arguments

During oral arguments, the Biden administration defended the Trump-era rule, asserting that bump stocks enable semiautomatic rifles to fire automatically with a single trigger pull. Cargill's attorneys countered, claiming that bump stocks require repeated trigger pulls rather than automatic firing.

In her dissent, Sotomayor warned that the decision would hinder federal efforts to prevent gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter from accessing machine guns.

Thomas, who previously authored a significant gun decision in 2022 invalidating a New York law requiring a special need to carry firearms in public, expanded Second Amendment rights with that ruling. The current session also includes a case testing a federal law preventing firearm possession by individuals under domestic violence protective orders, with a decision expected soon.