Washington, D.C. – November 4, 2023
U.S. Supreme Court once again delved into the realm of gun rights, announcing its decision to review the legality of a federal ban on “bump stock” devices. These devices can transform semiautomatic firearms into rapid-firing weapons akin to machine guns.
The case in question revolves around an appeal presented by President Joe Biden’s administration. This appeal challenges a lower court ruling that favored Michael Cargill, a gun shop owner and advocate for gun rights based in Austin, Texas. Cargill contested the ban on bump stocks, which was initially implemented by former President Donald Trump after the tragic 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The central issue at the heart of this case pertains to the “Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF),” an agency within the U.S. Justice Department. It revolves around whether the ATF’s interpretation of a law prohibiting machine guns extends to bump stocks. This interpretation, which marked a reversal of the agency’s prior stance, became effective in 2019.
According to federal law, the sale or possession of machine guns is prohibited and can result in a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Machine guns are defined under the 1934 National Firearms Act as firearms capable of firing more than one shot automatically “with a single function of the trigger.”
Bump stocks, on the other hand, utilize a semiautomatic firearm’s recoil to enable it to move back and forth while “bumping” the shooter’s trigger finger, thus leading to rapid firing.
The Supreme Court has previously rejected some challenges to the ban on bump stocks.
The conservative majority on the Supreme Court has consistently broadened gun rights in major rulings since 2008. This encompasses a ruling made in 2022 acknowledging an individual’s constitutional entitlement to bear a firearm in public for self-protection, accompanied by the implementation of a rigorous assessment to determine the legality of firearm-related laws.
In a separate case set for discussion next Tuesday, the justices will consider whether to uphold a federal law that restricts individuals with domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms.
Following a tragic 2017 shooting incident at a country music festival in Las Vegas, where a shooter used weapons equipped with bump stocks, leading to 58 fatalities and numerous injuries, the Trump administration took action to ban these devices. Michael Cargill challenged this rule in a lawsuit, which ultimately required him to surrender his two bump stocks.
Richard Samp, representing Cargill on behalf of the New Civil Liberties Alliance conservative legal group, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to take on the case. Samp expressed skepticism regarding the ATF’s sudden reversal of its stance, suggesting it may have prioritized political considerations over the rule of law.
As of now, the U.S. Justice Department has not provided an immediate response to the case.
In January, the “5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,”situated in New Orleans, ruled in favor of Cargill, but this decision was divided. It concluded that the law did not explicitly favor the ATF’s interpretation of the statute. The Justice Department argued that this ruling posed a significant threat to public safety, emphasizing the high potential for danger associated with bump stocks, as they enable rapid firing akin to machine guns.
The United States remains deeply divided on the issue of addressing persistent gun violence, which President Biden has labeled a “national embarrassment.” It is important to note that the case in question did not concern whether the ban violated the “Second Amendment’s right” to bear arms.
Additionally, on the same day, the Supreme Court took on another case related to firearms. This case revolves around whether a New York state official obstructed the National Rifle The organization’s exercise of its constitutional right to free speech, as safeguarded by the “First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” involves putting pressure on financial institutions and insurance companies to refrain from conducting business with the influential gun rights association.