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U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Bumpstock Ban

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Bumpstock Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Trump-era bumpstock ban. 

In a 6-3 ruling along ideological lines, the SCOTUS struck down the ban on bump stocks in the case of Cargill Vs. Garland. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion and went into detail about the case. 

The opinion is a good read if you’re so inclined, but the big news is that bump stocks are again legal in the United States. This is a huge win for gun rights.

What Are Bump Stocks?

In case you missed it, bump stocks are plastic stocks made for popular firearms like the AK-47 and AR-15 that help the shooter to “bump” the trigger. A combination of pulling on the forend of the firearm and the recoil of the gun bumps the gun back and forth into your trigger finger, thus producing a high rate of fire.

It is important to note that each shot fired requires one trigger action. But instead of the shooter’s finger doing all the work, a bump stock bumps the gun forward bringing the trigger to the shooter’s finger. 

Bump stocks are essentially a range toy. They have no practical purpose in competition and their tactical use would be highly debatable at best. But for turning money into noise, they can’t be beat.

Why Is This A Big Win?

When Trump ordered the ATF to ban bump stocks, the ATF reclassified them as “machine guns” thus subject to the NFA. Congress didn’t pass a law banning them and there was no vote, no review and no oversight. The ATF simply decided that bump stocks were machine guns and thus were banned. 

This was a gross and horrific overstep from the ATF and blatantly outside the law. Machine guns, as defined by US law, are:

“[A]ny weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or a combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.” 26 USC 5845 (b)

Critically, machine guns require automatic fire with “a single function of the trigger.” Bump stocks by their design actuate the trigger with each shot. 10 rounds require 10 pulls of the trigger. Because of this, they are not machine guns.

This was the crux of the case and is the focus of the judgment overturning the ban. Machine guns are well-defined under federal law. Bump stocks do not meet that definition. The ATF had no authority to reclassify them. Thus, the ban was overturned.

Not only is this a major win for gun owners desiring bump stocks, but it also speaks to a larger trend that the court has followed. Namely, the sharp rebuke of federal agencies being allowed to invent laws and regulations outside the letter of the law. 

Hopefully, this will continue with other 2A cases before the court.

Incidentally, Justice Thomas cited extensively from Gun Digest in the opinion, drawing from Patrick Sweeney’s books Gunsmithing the AR-15, Gunsmithing Rifles and Gun Digest’s Book of the AR-15. It’s good to know that the Justice is keeping up on his reading.

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