US Supreme Court overturns gun stockpile ban

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Backup stocks were used during the 2017 Las Vegas shootings – when dozens of people were killed at a music festival

  • Author, Brandon Drennon
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court has lifted a ban on Bump Stocks, the rapid-fire weapon accessory used in America’s deadliest mass shooting.

In a ruling released Friday, the court said the government had no right to ban the accessories.

The Trump administration banned bump stocks after they were used in a shooting that killed 60 people at a Las Vegas concert in 2017.

But a Texas gun store owner who challenged the ban said the government went too far in defining the accessories as machine guns, which is illegal under federal law, and took his fight to the highest American court.

The court said a semiautomatic rifle with an accessory is not considered a machine gun under federal law.

The Supreme Court opinion, written by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, said the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms had “exceeded” its authority.

The court, citing part of the legal definition of machine guns, said stock rifles “cannot fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger,’ and even if they could, they would not would not do so “automatically”. “.

The split decision saw three of the nine justices dissenting – they were Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Sotomayor said: “Today, the Court returns the relief stockpiles to civilian hands. »

A decision which, according to her, “will have deadly consequences”.

As for whether they should be considered machine guns, she said: “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. »

In the Firearms Act of 1986, machine guns are defined as any “weapon that fires, is designed to fire, or can be easily restored to fire, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the gun.” trigger”.

At a hearing on the case in March, some judges on the conservative-led court were skeptical of the ban, drawing attention to minor technical differences between the way a striker-fired pistol fires and a machine gun.

At the time, Justice Neil Gorsuch said he could understand “why these articles should be made illegal” but said that was explicitly Congress’s role.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson countered, saying bump stocks are simply “the type of weapons that Congress intended to ban because of the damage they cause.”

The stock exploits the recoil of a rifle to quickly fire multiple shots. It replaces the stock of the weapon, which is held against the shoulder, and allows the pistol to slide back and forth between the shoulder and the user’s trigger finger. This movement – or bump – allows the gun to fire without the user having to move their finger.

The attacker in the Las Vegas shooting had attached stocks to 12 of his semi-automatic rifles, allowing him to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, the same rate as many machine guns. It killed 60 people and injured hundreds more who had gathered for a music festival.

A spokeswoman for the campaign of Donald Trump, whose administration enacted the initial ban, told the BBC that “the court has ruled and its decision must be respected.”

A spokesperson for President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to debate Trump in June as both candidates run for re-election, criticized the move. “Weapons of war have no place on the streets of America,” they said.

Leave a Comment