Supreme Court Ruling Allows Continued Sale of Bump Stocks in Guns Used in 2017 Vegas Massacre

By Thea Felicity

Jun 14, 2024 01:19 PM EDT

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Firearms Accessory Regulation And Enforcing Background Checks
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: A video demonstrating bump stocks is played during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing concerning firearm accessory regulation and enforcing federal and state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on Capitol Hill, December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC.
(Photo : Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Friday, June 14, overturned a ban on bump stocks, the firearm accessory that enables semi-automatic weapons to fire at rates comparable to machine guns. AP News reported that the 6-3 decision, delivered by the court's conservative majority, concluded that the Trump administration had overstepped its authority by classifying bump stocks as illegal machine guns.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the high court's opinion arguing that a bump stock does not alter the fundamental nature of a firearm's operation. It reduces the time between shots without changing the trigger's single-pull mechanism.

The ruling came nearly seven years after the Las Vegas massacre, where a gunman equipped with bump stock-modified rifles fired over 1,000 rounds into a crowd at a country music festival, killing 60 people and injuring hundreds more. 

Justice Alito added a concurring opinion, stressing that Congress has the authority to amend the law to classify bump stocks as machine guns, should it choose to do so. 

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Ban on Bump Stocks in Guns

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited the severity of the Las Vegas shooting, noting that the shooter's ability to kill rapidly was largely due to the bump stocks.

Meanwhile, Michael Cargill, a Texas gun shop owner and military veteran, challenged the Justice Department's classification of bump stocks as machine guns in court. He argued that bump stocks, which increase a firearm's firing rate, should not be classified as such because they still necessitate considerable effort from the shooter to sustain continuous firing. 

Initially, under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the ATF ruled that bump stocks did not convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns. 

This position changed under President Trump, who, following the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and another mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, directed the ATF to reclassify the devices. 

The Trump Administration's reclassification led to the 2019 ban, mandating the surrender or destruction of an estimated 520,000 bump stocks, which caused an estimated $100 million loss to their owners.

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