Supreme Court Overturns ATF Ban On Bump Stocks

The Supreme Court has ruled that attaching a bump stock to a rifle does not transform it into a machine gun, rendering the federal ban on bump stocks illegal. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) overstepped its authority with this regulation.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, stated, “Congress has long restricted access to ‘machineguns,’ defined by their ability to shoot more than one shot automatically with a single trigger function.” He explained that semiautomatic firearms, which require shooters to pull the trigger for each shot, do not meet this definition.

Thomas provided background on the case, explaining that bump stocks enable rapid firing by using the firearm’s recoil to help trigger the weapon. However, this does not transform the weapon into a machine gun. The case was brought by Michael Cargill, who surrendered two bump stocks to the ATF under protest and challenged the agency’s rule.

Represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, Cargill argued that the ATF lacked the authority to classify bump stocks as machine guns under federal law. The Court agreed, with Thomas stating, “The statutory text refers to ‘a single function of the trigger.’ Semiautomatic rifles, even with a bump stock, still require the shooter to release and re-engage the trigger for each shot.”

Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, while Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, dissented.

The ruling has broader implications for federal agency regulations, especially under the Biden administration, where agencies have been accused of overreach. This decision underscores the importance of adhering to the precise language of statutes, rather than allowing agencies to reinterpret laws beyond their intended scope.

The case, Garland v. Cargill, No. 22-976, emphasizes the need for clear legislative definitions and limits on agency authority.