Supreme Court Flips Trump-Era Ban on Bump Stocks

A 6-3 ruling on gun accessory says Trump administration didn't follow federal law
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 14, 2024 9:57 AM CDT
Supreme Court Flips Trump-Era Ban on Bump Stocks
The Supreme Court Building is seen on Thursday in Washington.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The Supreme Court on Friday struck down a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory that allows semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns and was used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. The high court found 6-3 that the Trump administration didn't follow federal law when it reversed course and banned bump stocks after a gunman in Las Vegas attacked a country music festival with assault rifles in 2017. He fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd in 11 minutes, leaving 60 people dead and injuring hundreds more. A Texas gun shop owner challenged the ban, arguing the Justice Department wrongly classified the accessories as illegal machine guns, per the AP.

Bump stocks harness a gun's recoil energy so that the trigger bumps against the shooter's stationary finger, allowing the gun to fire at a rate of hundreds of rounds a minute, comparable to a traditional machine gun. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia already have their own bans on bump stocks. Under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the ATF decided that bump stocks didn't transform semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. The agency reversed those decisions at Trump's urging after the shooting in Las Vegas and another mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

Justices from the court's liberal wing suggested it was "common sense" that anything capable of unleashing a "torrent of bullets" was a machine gun under federal law. "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," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, per MSNBC's Kyle Griffin. Conservative justices, though, raised questions about why Congress hadn't acted to ban bump stocks, as well as the effects of the ATF changing its mind a decade after declaring the accessories legal. The high court took up the case after a split among lower courts. There were about 520,000 bump stocks in circulation when the ban went into effect in 2019, requiring people to either surrender or destroy them, at a combined estimated loss of $100 million, the plaintiffs said in court documents. More here. (More bump stocks stories.)

Get breaking news in your inbox.
What you need to know, as soon as we know it.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.