Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on bump stocks

The Supreme Court on Friday struck down a federal ban on bump stocks approved by former President Donald Trump, the high court’s latest stroke limiting the power of federal agencies to act on their own.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for a 6-3 court. The court’s liberal wing, led by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissented.

Trump had pushed for the ban in response to a 2017 mass shooting that killed 58 people at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas. Bump stocks allow a shooter to convert a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire at a rate of hundreds of rounds a minute.

“A bump stock does not convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does,” Thomas wrote in his opinion. “Even with a bump stock, a semiautomatic rifle will fire only one shot for every ‘function of the trigger.’”

The ban was challenged by a Texas gun store owner, Michael Cargill, who purchased two of the devices in 2018, turned them over to the government after the prohibition was implemented and then promptly sued to get them back. The federal rule made possession of a bump stock a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Though the case didn’t rely on the Second Amendment, it did put the debate about guns back on the court’s docket in one of the most closely watched controversies this year. In that sense, the decision was the latest from the high court to side with gun rights groups.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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