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Supreme Court Declares ATF Ban on Bump Stocks Illegal

WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court has ruled that federal agencies’ bans on bump stocks violate federal law because attaching a bump stock to a rifle does not turn it into a machine gun. held on friday.

“Congress has long restricted access to ‘machine guns,’ a category of firearms that have the ability to ‘fire multiple shots automatically with a single pull of the trigger.’ Semi-automatic firearms that require the shooter to repulse the trigger after each shot are not machine guns,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. “This case asks whether a bump stock, an attachment to a semi-automatic rifle that allows the shooter to quickly repulse the trigger (thus achieving a high rate of fire), transforms the rifle into a ‘machine gun.’ We find that it does not, and we affirm.”

“Shooters have devised techniques to fire semi-automatic rifles at speeds approaching those of a machine gun,” Thomas says by way of background information. “One of these techniques is bump firing. Bump-firing shooters use the recoil of the rifle to quickly pull the trigger.”

“The issue in this case is whether bump stocks transform a semi-automatic rifle into a ‘machine gun’ as defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 5845(b),” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has issued regulations stating that they do.

“Michael Cargill protested, turned over two bump stocks to the ATF, and then filed suit challenging the final rule, asserting claims under the Administrative Procedure Act,” Thomas explained in his 6-3 decision. “Relatedly, Cargill argues that because bump stocks are not ‘machine guns’ as defined in § 5845(b), the ATF lacks legal authority to promulgate the final rule.”

Cargill is represented by the New Civil Liberties Union, a conservative group led by Mark Chenoweth, which strategically files lawsuits to restore and advance constitutional and statutory rights, particularly by restraining illegal conduct by federal agencies.

“As always, we begin with the statutory language that refers to the ‘single function of the trigger,'” the opinion declared.

“For weapons equipped with these standard trigger mechanisms, the phrase ‘trigger function’ refers to the physical trigger movement required to fire the weapon,” the majority noted. “No one disputes that a semi-automatic rifle without a bump stock is not a machine gun because it fires only one shot per ‘trigger function.'”

“ATF does not dispute that this entire process constitutes a ‘single function of the trigger.’ After the trigger is reset, the shooter can fire the weapon again, but only if he or she pulls the trigger again to initiate a new firing cycle,” Thomas continues. “For each shot, the shooter must pull the trigger and then release it to allow it to reset. Any additional shots fired one cycle later are the result of a separate and distinct ‘function of the trigger.'”

“The addition of a bump stock to a semi-automatic rifle changes nothing; the firing cycle remains the same,” the court reasoned. “The shooter must release pressure from the trigger between shots and reset the trigger before squeezing it again for the next shot.”

“Bump stocks simply shorten the time that elapses between the separate ‘functions’ of the trigger,” the majority noted. “Bump stocks do not turn a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger can turn a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.”

“Accordingly, bump stocks do not qualify as machine guns under the definition of section 5845(b),” the court ruled.

“But §5845(b) does not define a machine gun based on what type of human input is required to pull the trigger — whether it’s a pull, a bump, or something else,” Thomas continued. “Nor does it define a machine gun based on whether the shooter has assistance in pulling the trigger. The statutory definition hinges on how many rounds are fired when the shooter pulls the trigger.”

The 6-3 majority vote rejected the ATF’s defense of the bump stock ban, stating:

Finally, the positions espoused by the ATF and its opponents are logically inconsistent. They argue that semi-automatic rifles equipped with bump stocks can fire multiple shots with a single trigger pull because the shooter only needs to pull the trigger and maintain forward pressure to fire multiple shots. But if that is true, the same must be true for semi-automatic rifles without bump stocks. After all, as opponents and the ATF themselves acknowledge, a shooter who manually bump fires a semi-automatic rifle can fire multiple shots by keeping the trigger finger still and maintaining forward pressure with the non-trigger hand. But they agree that semi-automatic rifles without bump stocks only fire one shot each time the shooter pulls the trigger. So their arguments are inconsistent.

“Bump stocks are not ‘machine guns’ for another reason: even if a semi-automatic rifle with a bump stock can fire multiple rounds ‘with one function of the trigger,’ it does not fire ‘automatically,'” Thomas wrote in his opinion. “Thus, the statute specifies the precise action by which the weapon ‘automatically’ fires multiple rounds: ‘with one function of the trigger.'”

The Court further explained:

In any case, Congress could have tied the definition of “machine gun” to the weapon’s rate of fire, as opponents wished, but instead wrote a law that determines whether a weapon can fire multiple rounds “automatically with a single pull of the trigger.” It is certainly not our job to rewrite the law based on speculation about what Congress did.

Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, with Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson joining.

This case has direct implications beyond just the ATF and firearms, but also other ways in which federal agencies, particularly the Biden administration, are rewriting old laws to have far-reaching new effect.

This incident Garland v. CargillCase No. 22-976, in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Breitbart News senior legal contributor Ken Kurkowski is a former White House and Justice Department lawyer. Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) Kenkrukowski.