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Published on February 29, 2024
High Court Grapples with Bump Stock Ban's Fate As Austin Store Owner Leads Charge Against ATF OverreachSource: WhisperToMe, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court appeared split on the legality of a federal ban on bump stocks, the firearm accessories that enable semi-automatic rifles to unleash a rapid-fire barrage resembling a machine gun's output. While some justices expressed concern over the devices that played a role in the nation's deadliest mass shootings, others questioned whether the ban might exceed the government's authority. This comes as the Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday on whether or not to uphold the ban, The Texas Tribune reported.

After President Trump mandated the ban in late 2017, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) classified bump stocks under the umbrella of "machine guns" in December 2018. Michael Cargill, an Austinite gun store owner, has emerged as a key figure challenging the federal restriction. According to FOX 7 Austin, Cargill stepped forward saying, "I never thought in a million years, I would be in front of the United States Supreme Court, deciding a case, a case that actually would affect gun control laws, and gun laws for the entire country for decades to come."

The conservative-leaning justices, such as Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, acknowledged while the items potentially should be restricted, it seems to be a matter for Congress to legislate. On the flip side, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson indicated that bump stocks likely fell into the exact category of weapons that Congress aimed to regulate when it enacted machine gun restrictions. Gorsuch said, "I can understand 'why these items should be made illegal,'" yet signaling that might be Congress's job to do so explicitly, as per The Texas Tribune.

A specific point of contention is how bump stocks operate and whether their function equates to a "single function of the trigger," a technical aspect fundamental to the legal classification of machine guns. Cargill’s legal team argued that fire produced by bump stocks comes from repeated manual activations of the trigger — not a single motion. Cargill said in a statement acquired by FOX 7 Austin, "It should not be illegal, and the government does not have the authority, especially the ATF, an agency within the government, they don't have the authority to actually ban bump stocks and actually turn millions of Americans into felons overnight."

The outcome of this decision could redefine the regulatory power of federal agencies and has the potential to enforce, a major shift in America's gun control landscape. With America's history of grappling with mass shootings, this ruling, concerning the device involved in the Las Vegas tragedy that left almost 60 dead, looms significant. The Supreme Court's decision could ripple through the laws governing firearms, the administrative state's reach, and the perennial debate over Second Amendment rights in the United States.