Supreme Court Hears Bump Stock Ban on Guns

By Malik Ferri. on March 29, 2019 in U.S. News
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On Thursday this week, the Supreme Court heard the case brought forward by gun rights advocates to temporarily halt the federal ban on bump stocks. The initiative undertaken by the Trump administration was supported by the Supreme Court and the regulation will remain in place until the federal appeals court rules on it.

Bump stocks enable semiautomatic weapons to fire in rapid bursts by using its recoil. With the addition of a bump stock, some weapons can fire between 400 and 500 rounds per minute and become fully automatic.

Fearing a ban on bump stocks, it was reported that a week after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S history, there was an increase in customers looking to buy them. In 2017, fifty-nine people died and 851 were injured when the gunman responsible fired more than 1,100 rounds into a concert crowd from his hotel suite window in Las Vegas.

The federal law defines a machine gun as “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function trigger.” Previously, some gun owners argue, the ATF had concluded that bump stocks were not machine guns since the trigger has to be reset before each round can be fired.

The Department of Justice ruled in December all owners of bump stocks had 90 days in which to destroy them or turn them into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and issued instructions through their website on how to effectively destroy them. They suggested crushing, melting or shredding them in order to disable the devices special firing feature.

Supreme Court Hears Bump Stock Ban on Guns

People are angry with the decision because, under the previous administrations, the ATF had declared them as legal. The agency then proceeded with their ruling, even though the law was not changed, but reinterpreted under the current administration.

Many feel that the regulation enacted in many states may be difficult to enforce and it is estimated that 500,000 people are bump stock owners affected by the law. The regulation was challenged by gun owners in a Michigan federal trial court, claiming that the federal law did not allow for such action by the executive branch. In their argument, they included the value of the bump stocks to be destroyed added up to more than $100 million.

In his ruling, last week, Judge Paul L. Maloney, of the Federal District Court in Michigan refused to block the regulation. In his ruling, he wrote that machine guns are restricted by Congress because of the threat they pose to public safety, as did bump stocks. He also warned their owners that they were as much at risk s the rest of the public.

Judge Maloney’s decision has now lead to an appeal, while on Monday, a three-judge panel, of the United States Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, rejected a request for a stay of the regulation from the plaintiffs. Even though the court acknowledged the damages that the challengers faced they also felt that they had to act in the best interest for the safety of the public.

The lawyers of the plaintiffs have turned to the Supreme Court as they feel that bump stocks are manufactured and purchased in accordance with rulings approved by the ATF and that they could not now seize the private property of their owners. They went on to describe the move by the ATF as the biggest seizure of private property.

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“The protection of the public and law enforcement officers from the proliferation of prohibited firearms is a bedrock foundation of federal firearms legislation,” wrote the Solicitor General, Noel J, Francisco, who is representing the administration. He has urged justices to deny the stay in the case, Gun Owners America v. Barr, No. 18A963.

So far, none of the courts where the regulations have been challenged have ruled for the plaintiffs. A federal trial judge in Washington refused to give a preliminary ruling and the case was moved to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where a temporary stay was issued for only those plaintiffs in that particular case.

Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, No. 18A964, the challengers in the above case asked the Supreme Court to intervene. They mention the fact that hundreds of thousands of citizens will have to destroy or surrender their private property for possessions that were deemed legal under the ATF statute of 85 years. In their brief, they also mention that their clients will have to face felony charges and deprivation of property in a time frame set by the ATF in a rushed and arbitrary manner.

The application was denied on Tuesday, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. noted that the appeals court had already imposed a partial stay.

The end of the 90-day waiting period has ended, but with numerous appeals pending it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be. Owners of bump stocks face arrest, conviction and huge fines or 10 years in federal prison and there will be no compensation from the state for the forfeited bump stocks.

On the other hand, a weapon that is capable o discharging dozens of rounds in a few seconds, even if not truly automatic, can be seen as a weapon of war rather than a weapon for hunting or self- defense.

Malik Ferri
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Malik Ferri

Malik Ferri is BLT’s Social Media and Content Manager. Originally from Connecticut, he lives in Colorado and works out of our Denver office. Have an idea for the BLT blog? Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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