The US Supreme Court has overturned a ban on bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday struck down a rule issued after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that defined a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a stock as a machine gun, which is generally prohibited by federal law.

The opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, limits the executive branch’s already constrained ability to address gun violence. Thomas, a forceful defender of Second Amendment gun rights, wrote that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives overstepped its statutory authority by banning the sale and possession of bump stocks, which he said were significantly different from machine guns.

“Nothing changes when a semi-automatic rifle is equipped with a stock,” Thomas wrote. “Between each shot, the shooter must release pressure on the trigger and allow it to reset before pressing the trigger again to fire another shot.”

Suitcase, Garland v. Cargillwas a 6-3 decision that broke with the court’s established ideological lines.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a senior member of the court’s liberal wing, wrote a dissent and argued that the decision “puts the action back in the hands of civilians.”

“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,” she wrote. “A stock-equipped semi-automatic rifle fires “automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, with a single trigger function.” Since, like Congress, I call it a machine gun, I respectfully object.”

Weapon safety failure

The White House sharply criticized this decision.

“Today’s decision repeals an important gun safety regulation,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “Americans should not live in fear of this mass devastation.”

Biden has called on Congress to ban magazines and assault weapons, but any gun legislation is likely to stall because Republicans control the House and Democrats hold only a slim majority in the Senate.

“Stock stocks have played a devastating role in many of our nation’s horrific mass shootings, but unfortunately it is no surprise that the Supreme Court is rolling back this essential public safety rule to advance its out-of-touch, extreme agenda,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement .

The rule of the Trump era

This case stems from a regulation introduced during the Trump administration, after a mass shooting in Las Vegas. The gunman used a rifle equipped with bump stocks and fired into the crowd at a music festival, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500.

The following year, the ATF issued a rule declaring bump stocks illegal machine guns. Anyone who owned or possessed the stock was required to either destroy the material or turn it over to the agency to avoid criminal penalties.

Michael Cargill, owner of a gun store in Austin, Texas, turned over two supplies to the ATF and then challenged the rule in federal court.

A U.S. district court dismissed his case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with Cargill that the 1986 law’s definition of a machine gun did not apply to stocks because rifles equipped with attachments do not fire multiple bullets. automatically” or “by single trigger function”.

This law defined a machine gun as “any weapon that fires, is designed to fire, or can be readily restored to fire automatically by more than one shot, without manual reloading, by the operation of a single trigger function.”

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

Arguments of the Supreme Court

In oral arguments, the Biden administration defended the Trump-era rule and said stocks allow semi-automatic rifles to fire automatically with a single press of the trigger.

Cargill lawyers argued that the stock was deployed by pulling the trigger multiple times, rather than firing automatically in one pull.

In her dissent, Sotomayor said the decision would limit “the federal government’s efforts to keep machine guns out of the hands of gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

Thomas also wrote the main weapon decision in 2022, which invalidated a New York law prohibiting carrying firearms in public places without demonstrating a special need for protection. The court decided the case under the 14th Amendment, but also expanded Second Amendment rights.

There is another gun-related case pending in connection with this 2022 decision in court this session, a federal law that prohibits people on domestic violence protective orders from possessing firearms is being tested. A decision is expected this month.

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