US Supreme Court opens door to even more carnage

Today the body in a 6-3 opinion struck down a ban on the use of so-called ‘bump stocks’, the device that can convert a semiautomatic weapon (where you have to pull the trigger for each shot) to something that resembles a machine gun, where simply holding the trigger results in the gun firing repeatedly. Needless to say, the latter allows you fire bullets far more rapidly, allowing for greater carnage in the time interval before the shooter is stopped.

The ruling was 6-3, with the court’s liberal justices dissenting from the conservative majority’s decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that a semiautomatic firearm equipped with a bump stock did not meet the definition of a machine gun, which are subject to stricter regulations.

The top court’s ruling in Garland v Cargill nullifies the Trump administration’s 2018 regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ordered anyone who owned a bump stock to destroy it or hand it over to federal agents. The rule was passed after the devastating 2017 mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas, in which a gunman fired more than 1,000 rounds, killing 60 people and injuring almost 500.

The majority conceded that the bump stocks had the same lethal effect as machine guns (which are illegal) but argued that that did not change the fact that they were technically not machine guns., and that it is the responsibility of Congress to pass laws that would restrict such guns.

In his concurring opinion, conservative justice Samuel Alito argued that the Las Vegas shooting “did not change the statutory text or its meaning”, suggesting the onus was on Congress to address the legality of bump stocks.

“That event demonstrated that a semiautomatic rifle with a bump stock can have the same lethal effect as a machine gun, and it thus strengthened the case for amending [the law on machine guns],” Alito wrote. “But an event that highlights the need to amend a law does not itself change the law’s meaning.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was having none of that sophistry.

“When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck,” Sotomayor wrote. “A bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle fires ‘automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger’ … Because I, like Congress, call that a machine gun, I respectfully dissent.”

She expressed concern that the ruling would only contribute to more mass shootings, writing: “The majority’s artificially narrow definition hamstrings the government’s efforts to keep machine guns from gunmen like the Las Vegas shooter.”

The scrapping of the ban dismayed gun safety organizations such as Sandy Hook Promise, which has warned that bump stocks make guns all the more deadly by allowing multiple shots to be fired every second with just one pull of the trigger. Public reaction was so strong after the Las Vegas disaster that even the National Rifle Association, a body notorious for opposing gun regulations, joined the call for the add-ons to be taken out of circulation.

“Guns outfitted with bump stocks fire like machine guns, they kill like machine guns, and they should be banned like machine guns – but the supreme court just decided to put these deadly devices back on the market,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We urge Congress to right this wrong and pass bipartisan legislation banning bump stocks, which are accessories of war that have no place in our communities.

With the Republicans in Congress getting more extreme and crazy with each passing day, it is futile to expect them to pass a law banning bump stocks, even though it was the serial sex abuser and convicted felon Trump (SSACFT) administration that imposed the ban in 2017 after the outcry over the Las Vegas massacre. Now he says that the court’s decision should be respected, signaling that he will oppose any congressional action.

Of course, ‘thoughts and prayers’ are still legal and will be used freely when the next massacre occurs.

You can read the opinions here.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    It would be irresponsible to suggest how deliciously ironic it would be if a patriot with a bump stock managed to use a not-a-machine-gun to remove three or four of the judges responsible for this.

  2. Ridana says

    The majority conceded that the bump stocks had the same lethal effect as machine guns (which are illegal) but argued that…it is the responsibility of Congress to pass laws that would restrict such guns.

    So why does he now oppose Congress doing so? The Supremes didn’t say they couldn’t be banned, just that it can’t be done by a bureau or department regulation. I think they’re wrong, but either way, “respecting the ruling” doesn’t mean opposing Congressional action. That sort of flapping with the wind is what I expect of him though.

  3. Jazzlet says

    Ridana @#2
    Trump and the Congressional Republicans seem to oppose any legislation that could be seen as giving Biden a win, hence there recent voting down of the IVF bill.

  4. says

    We need to pack the court and enact state-wide restrictions on carrying guns.No bullshitting around. A limited number of guns in a carefully managed number of demonstrably competent hands.

    [note: I carefully said “competent” rather than “capable” -- you don’t have to to be Sun Tzu to know that knowing when to use a gun is more important than having it.

  5. Ridana says

    Jazzlet @3: But the ATF reg they overturned was adopted with Trump’s blessing during his admin, so you’d think getting it codified by Congress would be a win for him rather than Biden. Or for everybody, actually, though I know that’s not ever part of the calculus of the right. It would not be hard for them to spin it as a win for their side at least. They can spin anything inside out as they please.

    But I guess they also want to appeal to the “first they came for the bump stocks” faction that think any regulation of weaponry at all is the work of the devil, and we’ve seen that the fanatics will turn on anybody less crazy than them, even Trump when it came to vaccinations. So I suppose their best bet is to throw up their hands and say “We gotta respect my packed Court’s authoriteh!”

  6. lochaber says

    argh, this is infuriating…

    A bump stock serves no practical purpose, it possibly increases the fire rate, while greatly reducing the accuracy. So, the only applicable uses are wasting ammo while showing off at the range, or firing indiscriminately into crowds.

    It’s infuriating that so many of these so called “scholars” don’t understand the importance of privacy or bodily autonomy, but are very adamant about the importance of a stupid firearm attachment…

  7. garnetstar says

    In my state bump stocks are illegal, and they did it through the state legislature specifically defining a bump stock, not as it turning a gun into a machine gun. God willing, that law won’t be stricken down under this ruling.

    And if it is, I hope that the state ignores that and just keeps them illegal. When gun nuts sue, ignore that. When they take their case to SCOTUS and win, ignore that. What are they going to do, send troops? (armed with bump stocks, of course.)

    Semiautomatic weapons are also illegal here, and I believe that SCOTUS has a case coming up, or has already heard it, that might strike that down. Again, hope that the state completely ignores that. All of us losing our safety because of gun nuts from other states (who brought the suit) and bought-and-paid-for justices who whore their robes from the bench? Not doing that.

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