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Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era bump stock ban in blow to ATF

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, June 14, struck down a Trump-era ban on bump stocks — attachments that rapidly increase the firing rate of a semi-automatic firearm. In a 6-3 ruling, the court found the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) overstepped its authority with the ban in 2018. The federal rule came in 2017 in the wake of the Las Vegas concert killings, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

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Under the ban, the ATF lumped bump stocks in with machine guns, which are banned under federal law.

However, opponents of the ban argued that bump stocks are different from machine guns because the device doesn’t do anything to change the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm. So, even with the bump stock, only one round is fired per trigger pull. The rule required those who owned bump stocks to destroy or surrender them to the ATF or face criminal charges.

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“Semiautomatic firearms, which require shooters reengage the trigger every shot, are not machine guns,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. “This case asks whether a bump stock — an accessory for a semiautomatic rifle that allows the shooter rapidly to reengage the trigger — converts the rifle into a machine gun. We hold that it does not.”

Justice Samuel Alito noted in a concurring opinion that the court was constrained to follow existing law that defines “machine guns.” He wrote that though the Vegas shooting showed a semi-automatic gun with a bump stock can have the same lethal effects as a machine gun.

“An event that highlights the need to amend a law does not itself change the law’s meaning,” Alito wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Sonia Sotomayor warned that the ruling will have “deadly consequences.”

“When I see a bird that walks like duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck,” Sotomayor said. “A bump stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle fires ‘automatically’ more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. Because I — like Congress — call that a machine gun, I respectfully dissent.”

President Joe Biden responded to the ruling by calling on Congress to pass bump stock and assault weapons ban.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THE SUPREME COURT ON FRIDAY STRUCK DOWN A TRUMP-ERA BAN ON BUMP STOCKS, ATTACHMENTS THAT RAPIDLY INCREASE THE FIRING RATE OF SEMI AUTOMATIC FIREARMS.

IN A 6-3 RULING, THE COURT FOUND THE BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES OVERSTEPPED ITS AUTHORITY WITH THE BAN IN 2018.

THE RULE CAME IN THE WAKE OF THE LAS VEGAS CONCERT KILLINGS, THE DEADLIEST MASS SHOOTING IN U.S. HISTORY.

THE ATF LUMPED BUMP STOCKS IN WITH MACHINE GUNS, WHICH ARE BANNED UNDER FEDERAL LAW

OPPONENTS OF THE BAN ARGUED BUMP STOCKS ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE THEY DON’T DO ANYTHING TO CHANGE THE MECHANICS OF A SEMIAUTOMATIC FIREARM — EVEN WITH A BUMP STOCK, ONLY ONE ROUND IS FIRED PER TRIGGER PULL. 

THE RULE REQUIRED THOSE WHO OWNED BUMP STOCKS TO DESTROY OR SURRENDER THEM TO THE ATF OR FACE CRIMINAL PENALTIES.

IN THE MAJORITY OPINION JUSTICE THOMAS WROTE:

“SEMI AUTOMATIC FIREARMS, WHICH REQUIRE SHOOTERS TO RE ENGAGE THE TRIGGER EVERY SHOT, ARE NOT MACHINE GUNS. THIS CASE ASKS WHETHER A BUMP STOCK — AN ACCESSORY FOR A SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE THAT ALLOWS THE SHOOTER RAPIDLY RE ENGAGE THE TRIGGER– CONVERTS THE RIFLE INTO A MACHINE GUN. WE HOLD THAT IT DOES NOT.”

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO NOTED IN A CONCURRING OPINION THAT THE COURT WAS CONSTRAINED TO FOLLOW EXISTING LAW THAT DEFINES “MACHINE GUNS.” HE WROTE THAT THOUGH THE VEGAS SHOOTING SHOWED A SEMI-AUTOMATIC GUN 

WITH A BUMP STOCK CAN HAVE THE SAME LETHAL EFFECTS AS A MACHINE GUN,

 “AN EVENT THAT HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED TO AMEND A LAW DOES NOT ITSELF CHANGE THE LAW’S MEANING.”

IN A DISSENTING OPINION JUDGE SONYA SOTOMAYOR WARNED THE RULING WILL HAVE “DEADLY CONSEQUENCES.” 

ADDING, “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. A BUMP STOCK-EQUIPPED SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLE FIRES ‘AUTOMATICALLY’ MORE THAN ONE SHOT, WITHOUT MANUAL RELOADING, BY A SINGLE FUNCTION OF THE TRIGGER. BECAUSE I, LIKE CONGRESS, CALL THAT A MACHINE GUN, I RESPECTFULLY DISSENT.”

PRESIDENT BIDEN RESPONDED BY URGING CONGRESS TO BAN BUMP STOCKS AND ASSAULT WEAPONS.

FROM THE SUPREME COURT TO EVERYTHING ELSE– WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED WITH STRAIGHT FACTS– NO BIAS. 

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