For the third time in nearly as many weeks, the Supreme Court has rejected a request to delay a ban on bump stocks pushed forward by President Trump. This batch of appeals came from a number of individuals and three different gun rights organizations. We’re seeing a pattern emerging here that may indicate an acceptance of this rule as not being a Second Amendment issue even among the more conservative justices. (Reuters)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday handed another setback to gun rights advocates challenging President Donald Trump’s ban on “bump stock” devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly.
With two conservative justices dissenting, the court refused to temporarily exempt from the ban a group of plaintiffs including the Firearms Policy Foundation while their legal challenge continues to be litigated in Washington.
The Supreme Court twice previously rejected requests by gun rights advocates – in the case in the U.S. capital and a similar one in Michigan – to temporarily block the ban while legal challenges proceed in lower courts.
We don’t have the full vote count and there was no written decision (typical in hearings like this one) but it was noted that both Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas were not supporting the injunction. In that case, it was likely a 6-4 decision.
From a strictly technical perspective, you can understand why these groups would want an injunction. The law in question would force them to either surrender or destroy their equipment, or face being arrested. If you destroy your gear to comply with the law and your legal challenge eventually succeeds, you don’t magically get your bump stocks back. But that wasn’t found the be a compelling argument by a majority of the justices, or so it seems.
I’ve taken an unpopular opinion on this issue before and nothing I’ve learned since then has changed it much. While any new laws perceived as infringing on gun rights are worrisome and summon up visions of slippery slopes, I really don’t have a problem with this particular ban. A bump stock is not “part of” nor an integral component of any firearm. To the best of my knowledge, no major manufacturer sells any firearms in the United States that come with a bump stock as an option. If you remove the bump stock from a semi-automatic rifle, the weapon still functions just as intended by the manufacturer.
Then there’s the purpose of the equipment to consider. A scope enables the shooter to see further and more clearly. Nothing illegal about that. A forward grip offers more stability. Again… not illegal. An extended magazine simply allows the firearm to be used in a typical fashion for longer between reloading cycles. And that shouldn’t be illegal. But the bump stock is designed for only one thing. It allows the semi-automatic weapon, which is normally limited in rate of fire by how quickly the shooter can keep pulling the trigger, to fire in the fashion of a fully automatic weapon. And that’s been illegal for a very long time with limited exceptions.
With all that in mind, I’m not going to get too upset if the courts eventually ban bump stocks entirely. This is particularly true if a conservative-leaning Supreme Court can make the case that this doesn’t infringe on Second Amendment rights. If this result emboldens Second Amendment opponents to try to push further we’ll just have to fight that battle a few steps further down the slope.