Supreme Court won’t hear case opposing Trump-era bump stock ban

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case in which Second Amendment activists sought to invalidate the Trump-era ban on bump stocks — the latest in multiple such cases the justices have refused to take up.

The lawsuit, Gun Owners of America v. Garland, initially targeted former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker while former President Donald Trump was in office. More recently, Attorney General Merrick Garland, appointed by President Biden, was the top named defendant after taking over the lead Justice Department post.

The case challenged a 2018 decision by the Justice Department under Trump to ban bump stocks. That move followed the 2017 mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, in which a man used rifles with bump stocks to kill 60 people and injure hundreds.

Bump stocks are attachments to semi-automatic rifles which use the recoil of the weapon to slide its body forwards and backwards. This effectively allows a shooter to fire several times in rapid succession while only needing to actively squeeze the trigger once, in a manner similar to a fully automatic weapon.

Bump stocks on semi-automatic rifles can allow a person to fire in rapid succession, similarly to a fully automatic weapon.  The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case challenging a Trump-era ban on gun accessories.

Bump stocks on semi-automatic rifles can allow a person to fire in rapid succession, similarly to a fully automatic weapon. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case challenging a Trump-era ban on gun accessories.
(AP Photo/Allen Breed, File)

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“We are faithfully following President Trump’s leadership by making it clear that bump stocks, which turn semiautomatics into machine guns, are illegal, and we will continue to take illegal guns off our streets,” Whitaker said in a statement at the time.

A federal district court sided with the government in 2019 before a three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision last year. In part, the appeals panel argued that federal agencies do not possess the broad authority to decide major policy issues like whether to ban a certain gun accessory like a bump stock.

A subsequent decision by the entire Sixth Circuit, however, overruled the three-judge panel and reinstated the lower court’s order siding with the government.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was the lead named defendant on a Gun Owners of America lawsuit aiming to overturn a bump stock ban by the Justice Department.  The suit initially targeted former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during the Trump administration.

Attorney General Merrick Garland was the lead named defendant on a Gun Owners of America lawsuit aiming to overturn a bump stock ban by the Justice Department. The suit initially targeted former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during the Trump administration.
(Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gun Owners of America then asked the Supreme Court to weigh in earlier this year. The group said the government’s rule banning bump stocks is disconnected from reality.

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“The question is whether common firearm accessories called ‘bump stocks’ constitute ‘machineguns’ under the statutory definition… and thus are banned from private possession,” Gun Owners of America said in a brief. “The answer to that question is a definitive ‘no.’ A firearm equipped with a bump stock does not meet either prong of Congress’s carefully-crafted and unambiguous definition of ‘machinegun.'”

The Biden Justice Department in its own brief, meanwhile, argued the exact opposite.

Former President Donald Trump's Justice Department issued a ban on bump stocks after a shooter used them to kill 60 people and injure hundreds more in a shooting at a 2017 concert in Las Vegas.

Former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department issued a ban on bump stocks after a shooter used them to kill 60 people and injure hundreds more in a shooting at a 2017 concert in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“ATF’s interpretation of the phrase ‘single function of the trigger’ reflects the common-sense understanding of how most weapons are fired: by the shooter’s pull on a curved metal trigger,” the Justice Department brief said. “[O]na machinegun — including a weapon equipped with a bump stock — that same single pull of the trigger initiates a continuous process that fires bullets until the ammunition is exhausted.”

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The justices declined to hear similar cases in 2020 and 2019.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.