Bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting are no longer prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting are no longer prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The federal ban on bump stocks, which are attachments that enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire at a rate of up to hundreds of rounds per minute, was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court today.

Although most people have been essentially prohibited from owning machine guns since the 1930s, there has been some debate over whether this prohibition extends to legal guns that can be equipped with accessories that increase their muzzle velocity. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives makes that determination, and it has debated whether or not to outlaw bump stocks throughout the years. However, in 2017, at a concert in Las Vegas, a man utilizing bump stocks carried out the bloodiest gun massacre in modern American history, leaving hundreds of people injured. Many owners of bump stocks predicted a prohibition in the wake of that mass incident. The prohibition on bump stocks was subsequently implemented by the Trump Administration and became effective in 2019.

Why did the court decide to lift that prohibition?

All of this boils back to the definition of a machine gun as stated in the statute, which is a weapon that can fire several rounds with “a single function of the trigger.” The word “function” is crucial in this context because it’s not the same as pulling a trigger.

When using a bump stock, you pull the trigger only once, hold it, and brace the stock against your shoulder. The recoil then quickly pulls the trigger, allowing you to fire the rounds at machine-gun speeds.

The ATF was incorrect to refer to a bump stock as a “machine gun” in accordance with the law, the court declared today, because there is a significant enough distinction.


That distinction seems to be pretty technical. Might this allow for more types of gun attachments in the end?

According to Adam Skaggs, chief counsel with the gun safety organization Giffords Law, “it’s probably not directly because it’s so narrowly focused on the mechanics of bump stocks.” For example, Glock switches are a different kind of illegal device that allows a handgun to shoot like an automatic. But he is concerned about the Supreme Court’s more expansive stance in this case.

“I think, though, the fact that there are six justices that are willing to cavalierly toss aside an incredibly important public safety regulation by the ATF suggests they may look at other regulations by the ATF with skepticism,” he continues.

How about attorneys for gun rights? Do they believe that additional gun laws will be impacted by this ruling?

Attorney Matt Larosiere, who was involved in bringing a similar challenge to the bump stock ban, concurs that this shouldn’t have an impact on the ban on auto sears or Glock switches, but he believes it might have an impact on other ATF regulations, such the prohibition on “ghost guns,” or weapons without serial numbers.

The question in this case isn’t so much what constitutes a machine gun as it is how far the Supreme Court is willing to let the regulatory agencies to define their boundaries. Furthermore, it seems to me that this case is saying, “Not very far.”


What about the states that have already banned bump stocks?

Bump stocks are illegal in the District of Columbia, at least in 15 states. State bans remain in place since this decision does not supersede the Second Amendment. According to the Supreme Court, Congress has the authority to amend the definition of machine guns to include bump stocks at any time.


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