Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Ban on Gun Bump Stocks

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes, Felonies |

US Supreme Court Rules Devices Used on Semi-Automatic Guns are Legal

In an update to our previous coverage over the United States Supreme Court’s handling of federal gun laws, the Court recently struck down a Trump-era federal ban on “bump stocks.” Bump stocks are accessories which convert semi-automatic weapons to ones capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute, similar to an automatic weapon. The ban was enacted in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (“ATF”), acted under the authority of the National Firearms Act of 1934 and The 1968 Gun Control Act. Those Acts defined what constitutes a machine gun is under federal law and the agency believed that the accessory effectively turned semi-automatic weapons to be converted into functionally machine guns which it has oversight over. However, writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that a firearm equipped with the accessory such as a bump stock does not meet the definition of “machine gun” under federal law because a bump stock does not allow a firearm to “fire more than one shot” with a single function of the trigger, thus striking down the agencies authority to ban them. In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said that Congress could enact a ban on bump stocks, but that the Executive Branch did not have the authority to do so under current law but that the “horrible shooting spree” in Las Vegas showed how “a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock can have the same lethal effect as a machinegun,” in arguing for legislative action while still striking down the ban. The federal regulation being struck down does not mean that bump stocks will be available nationwide, as 18 states already have bans in place themselves and the ruling in no way implicates the limits or rights of gun laws under the Second Amendment as of now.

Further Gun Regulation Rulings Loom Large

Since the Court’s ruling in Bruen, federal courts have grappled with the long reaching implications of a strengthened Second Amendment with the Ninth Circuit recently ruling that blanket prohibitions against felons possessing firearms are unconstitutional. In that case, a panel of judges threw out the conviction for a “felon-in possession” charge for a Los Angeles gang member with five prior felony convictions, stating that the government could not point to an analogous law from the time the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written. The ruling stands in contrast to several other Circuits, which will inevitably fall on the United States Supreme Court to determine which position align with the Second Amendment. Currently, court observers, ordinary citizens, and firearm enthusiasts are all awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court this term over whether a federal statute criminalizing gun possession for people under domestic violence restraining orders is constitutional, which may also provide further insight into what the Supreme Court believes are any limitations appropriate for firearms that do not run afoul of the Second Amendment.

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