U.S. Supreme Court Declares Unlawful a Federal Ban on “Bump Stock” Devices

FILE - Shooting instructor Frankie McRae demonstrates the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a "bump stock" at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., on Oct. 4, 2017. Gun accessories known as bump stocks hit the market more than a decade ago. The U.S. government initially concluded that the devices that make semi-automatic weapons fire faster didn't violate a federal ban on machine guns. That changed after a gunman with bump stock-equipped rifles killed 60 people and wounded hundreds in Las Vegas in 2017. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

AP Photo/Allen G. Breed

In Garland v. Cargill, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Trump-era regulation that effectively banned bump stocks. These aftermarket accessories make semiautomatic rifles fire more like machine guns. The devices were used in the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

A majority of the justices reasoned that the definition of machine gun in federal law does not apply to bump stocks. As a result, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives exceeded its authority to regulate them, the court ruled.

“A bump stock does not convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Semiautomatic weapons, which fire one bullet per trigger pull, are legal and don’t need to be registered with the federal government. When a bump stock is employed, it uses a semiautomatic’s natural recoil to quickly re-engage the trigger as long as the shooter maintains pressure. That enables an increased rate of fire — one that can nearly match that of a machine gun.

The court’s liberal justices signed onto a dissent penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which panned the majority’s reasoning:

“This is not a hard case. All of the textual evidence points to the same interpretation. A bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle is a machinegun because (1) with a single pull of the trigger, a shooter can (2) fire continuous shots without any human input beyond maintaining forward pressure.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.


No. Garland v. Cargill narrowly applies only to the ATF’s rulemaking authority and interpretation of federal statutes. Therefore, Washington’s ban on bump stocks shall remain in effect. Also, it is still a Class A felony in WA State to possess a bump-stocked firearm in the commission of a felony. Washington State joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in preserving their bump stock bans.

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