World

US Supreme Court rejects federal ban on gun 'bump stocks'

June 15, 2024 10:25 am

[Source: Reuters]

The U.S. Supreme Court declared unlawful a federal ban on “bump stock” devices that enable semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns, rejecting yet another firearms restriction – this time one enacted under Republican former President Donald Trump.

The justices, in a 6-3 ruling authored by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, upheld a lower court’s decision siding with Michael Cargill, a gun shop owner and gun rights advocate from Austin, Texas, who challenged the ban by claiming that a U.S. agency improperly interpreted a federal law banning machine guns as extending to bump stocks. The conservative justices were in the majority, with the liberal justices dissenting.

The rule was imposed in 2019 by Trump’s administration after the devices were used during a 2017 mass shooting that killed 58 people at a Las Vegas country music festival.

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Democratic President Joe Biden, whose administration defended the rule in court, said the decision “strikes down an important gun safety regulation.”

“Americans should not have to live in fear of this mass devastation,” Biden added, saying he has “used every tool in my administration to stamp out gun violence.”

“I call on Congress to ban bump stocks, pass an assault weapon ban and take additional action to save lives – send me a bill and I will sign it immediately,” Biden said.

Trump is challenging Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election. Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said after the ruling, “The court has spoken and their decision should be respected,” and called him a “fierce defender” of gun rights.

The case centered on how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a U.S. Justice Department agency, interpreted a federal law called the National Firearms Act, which defined machine guns as weapons that can “automatically” fire more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger.”

“We hold that a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machine gun’ because it cannot fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger,'” Thomas wrote. “And, even if it could, it would not do so ‘automatically.’ ATF therefore exceeded its statutory authority by issuing a rule that classifies bump stocks as machine guns.”

Federal law prohibits the sale or possession of machine guns, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Bump stocks use a semiautomatic’s recoil to allow it to slide back and forth while “bumping” the shooter’s trigger finger, resulting in rapid fire. Federal officials had said the rule was needed to protect public safety in a nation facing persistent firearms violence.