Supreme Court Will Not Block Trump's Bump Stock Ban

Photo: George Frey/Getty

The state of gun control in the U.S. is pretty depressing, but a small bright spot shined through the bullshit today, when the Supreme Court unanimously decided to uphold the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks while it undergoes court challenges, according to the New York Times.

The Trump administration announced the ban after the 2017 mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, which killed 58 people and injured hundreds, making it one of the deadliest mass shooing in U.S. history. It was found that the shooter had altered his semi-automatic weapons with bump stocks, devices that allow guns to fire faster, rendering them similar to fully automatic weapons.

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The new regulation was immediately challenged by lobbying group Gun Owners of America, who said the executive branch doesn’t have the power to enact the ban. The regulation was scheduled to go into effect this Tuesday. Today, the Supreme Court wrote in a one sentence decision that the ban could go forward while it was challenged in the courts.

As the regulation goes into effect, Americans who own bump stocks will have 90 days to destroy them or return them to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“This case represents the single biggest A.T.F. seizure of private property in history,” Gun Owners of America wrote in their Supreme Court filing. They added that the regulation “made even more noxious because all existing bump stocks were manufactured and purchased in accordance with A.T.F. rulings approving their sale.”

A representative from Gun Owners of America seemed to doubt the new regulation could be enforced.

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“My guess, from the states that have enacted bump stock bans, is that most of the 500,000 people that have bump stocks are not going to turn them in, if history is any indication,” Michael E. Hammond, a lawyer with Gun Owners of America, told the Times. He added that the group doesn’t “advocate that anyone violate the law.”

Originally, the Justice Department agreed with the plaintiffs that Trump didn’t have the authority to ban bump stocks without asking Congress for approval. Later, they said it the ban was in fact within the power of the executive branch.

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Since then, courts have upheld the ban.

From the Times:

Judge Paul L. Maloney, of the Federal District Court in Kalamazoo, Mich., last week refused to block the regulation. “Congress restricts access to machine guns because of the threat the weapons pose to public safety,” he wrote. “Restrictions on bump stocks advance the same interest. All of the public is at risk, including the smaller number of bump stock owners.”

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, rejected a request from the challengers for a stay of the regulation while an appeal from Judge Maloney’s decision moved forward.

The panel acknowledged that the plaintiffs “will suffer irreparable harm.” But it said that “the public interest in safety supports denial of a stay pending appeal.”

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It seems to us that the “irreparable harm” of the ban is probably less than the harm of killing dozens of people. And in this rare case, it seems the Trump administration agrees with us.

“The protection of the public and law enforcement officers from the proliferation of prohibited firearms is a bedrock foundation of federal firearms legislation,” Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco told the court on behalf of the administration. He added that the ban “promotes that public interest by protecting the public from the dangers posed by machine guns prohibited by federal law.”

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Another lawsuit brought against the ban was also rejected by the Supreme Court this week.

“No person,” those plaintiffs wrote, “should have to face the threat of felony prosecution and deprivation of their property due to the rushed and arbitrary time frame A.T.F. placed on these proceedings.”

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Chief Justice John Roberts denied their application earlier this week.

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