Supreme Court rules gun stockpile ban illegal

WASHINGTON- In a loss for the Biden administration, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that a federal ban on “bump stocks,” gun accessories that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire more quickly, was illegal.

In a six-to-three ideological ruling, with a conservative majority, the court ruled that a nearly 100-year-old law aimed at banning machine guns could not legitimately be interpreted to include contingency stocks.

Speaking for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said a firearm equipped with this accessory does not meet the definition of a “machine gun” under federal law.

A bump stock, left, on display at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah, on October 1, 2017. 4, 2017. George Frey / Reuters file

The ruling drew a vigorous dissent from liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“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 in reference to the shock stocks that allow semi-automatic rifles to shoot. operate like machine guns. Sotomayor also took the rare step of reading a summary of his dissent in court.

Even without the federal ban, wholesale inventory will still not be readily available nationwide. Eighteen states have already banned them, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun control group. Congress could also act.

The Trump administration imposed the ban after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, in which Stephen Paddock used firearms equipped with buttstocks to open fire on a country music festival, initially killing 58 people.

Sotomayor cited the Las Vegas shooting in his dissent.

“All he had to do was pull the trigger and press the gun forward,” she wrote.

The decision, she added, “cripples the government’s efforts to prevent machine guns from being used by gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

In a concurring opinion, conservative Justice Samuel Alito acknowledged that in practical terms, a weapon equipped with a humped stock is very similar to a machine gun and said Congress could act to ban the accessory.

The “horrific shooting” in Las Vegas showed how “a semi-automatic rifle fitted with a stock can have the same lethal effect as a machine gun,” strengthening the case for legislative action, he said. -he adds.

In 2019, the Supreme Court moved to block the settlement. Since then, the already conservative court has leaned further to the right, with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump appointee, replacing liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020.

Conservatives now have a 6-3 majority who have supported gun rights in previous cases.

The National Firearms Act was enacted in 1934 to regulate machine guns in response to gangster violence during the Prohibition era.

The lawsuit was filed by Texas-based gun owner Michael Cargill, a licensed dealer who owned two bump stocks before the ban took effect and later turned them over to the government.

Bump stocks use the recoil energy of a trigger to allow the user to fire up to hundreds of rounds with what the federal government calls “one motion.”

Cargill’s lawyers say it’s a difficult skill to master.

Some gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, initially supported then-President Donald Trump’s decision to regulate bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting, but have since opposed the move. measure.

The case does not involve the scope of the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Opponents argue that the government does not have the authority to ban wholesale stocks under the 1934 law.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 defined the term “machine gun” to include accessories “intended to convert a weapon” into a machine gun, and the ATF concluded that bump stocks met this definition.

Much of the legal battle hinged on the definition of the machine gun as a weapon capable of automatically firing more than one shot “through a single trigger function.”

The government argued that the phrase referred to the shooter’s actions, with only one action required to fire multiple shots. Cargill’s lawyers argued that this refers to the action inside the firearm when the trigger is pulled. Because a percussion stock still requires the trigger to be engaged with each shot, it is not a machine gun, they argued.

The Supreme Court adopted Cargill’s argument, with Thomas writing that a firearm equipped with a bump stock does not become a machine gun because “it cannot fire more than one shot” with a single trigger function .

“The ATF therefore exceeded its statutory authority by issuing a rule that classifies bump stocks as machine guns,” he added.

Lower courts were divided on the issue, with the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling the ban illegal.

The Biden administration appealed both cases, while gun rights advocates challenged the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that upheld the ban.

The Supreme Court has upheld gun rights in cases directly touching on the scope of the Second Amendment, including the 2022 decision that found that there is a right to carry a handgun outside the House.

But in a case argued in November, the court indicated it might not strike down some longstanding gun laws in a case involving a ban on gun possession by people accused of domestic violence.

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