Bump stocks were banned under federal law after the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The shooting happened at an outdoor festival where concertgoers had gathered, and the shooter used a device called a “bump stock.”
A bump stock allows a gun to fire faster than it could originally. The recoil from the gun pushes it against the bump stock, which pushes it forward again. This means that the shooter can hold their finger steady, holding the trigger back, and the gun will fire as rapidly as possible – similarly to a machine gun. The Las Vegas shooting showed how deadly this could be, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) determined it was illegal for people to buy these devices because they fire like machine guns, which are banned under federal law.
However, the legal battle over bump stocks continues in federal court. In January, a federal appeals court in New Orleans (the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) concluded that the AFT had exceeded its authority in imposing a ban on bump stock — a decision that ran counter to several other federal appeals court. Last month, the Biden administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue.
Does the ATF have authority to ban bump stocks?
In the Fifth Circuit case, a gun store owner contended that that the ATF had exceeded its authority by banning bump stocks. Under this argument, it is up to Congress to choose whether to impose such a ban.
The majority opinion in the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the gun store owner, despite the fact that other federal appeals courts had come to the opposite conclusion. But the Fifth Circuit decisions did not lift the ban on bump stocks. Instead, it returned the case the trial judge to determine whether the ATF rule should be struck down.
And now, with the latest appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to decide.