Trump-era ban on bump stocks struck down by court

FILE – A bump stock is displayed on March 15, 2019, in Harrisonburg, Va. Steve Helber/AP

Trump-era ban on bump stocks struck down by court

Ryan King

January 06, 07:55 PM January 06, 07:55 PM

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A Trump-era ban on bump stocks, devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire multiple rounds quickly, was nixed by a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Friday.

The ban was imposed after the deadly 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed dozens under the premise that bump stocks convert semi-automatic weapons into machine guns, which are forbidden under federal law. However, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded bump stocks are not covered under the machine gun laws, likely setting the stage for a Supreme Court challenge.


“A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of ‘machinegun’ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,” the 16-member court ruled.

Prior courts, including the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, the federal circuit court in Washington, and the 10th Circuit in Denver, declined to scrap the ban, the Associated Press reported. At one point, a panel of three judges on the 5th Circuit declined to nix it, but the full court opted to reevaluate that decision last year and heard arguments in September.

In 2017, 58 people were killed in the Las Vegas shooting by a shooter who used a bump stock to fire roughly 1,000 rounds of ammunition. The 5th Circuit noted that the ban came under emotionally charged circumstances in the aftermath of that massacre, but it ultimately concluded that the trigger functions multiple times with a bump stock, thereby not converting semi-automatic weapons into machine guns.

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The Biden administration, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, defended the ban in court.

Proponents of the ban, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, argued that bump stocks tap into the recoil energy from semi-automatic weapons to enable the guns to fire multiple rounds without human manipulation of the trigger in between rounds. Machine guns are similarly able to fire numerous rounds without constant manipulation of a trigger.

“You only have to do one thing,” Justice Department lawyer Mark Stern told the court, according to the Associated Press. “Your trigger finger isn’t doing anything other than sitting still.”

Michael Cargill, a guns rights activist who was the plaintiff in the case, cheered the news of the court’s decision.

“I won 13 to 3 Cargill v Garland – Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” he tweeted.

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