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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Supreme Court rejects bump stock ban cases

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t take up two cases that involved challenges to a ban enacted during the Trump administration on bump stocks, the gun attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen had filed briefs in support of overturning the ban in both the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals last year and again in April before the high court had determined whether it would hear the case. Knudsen’s office was accompanied by 17 states in the 6th Circuit Court filing and 21 states in the brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Knudsen had argued bump stock-equipped firearms should not be classified as a “machine gun” but that the device itself is only an accessory. In the latest brief, Knudsen argued Montana’s interest in the case was preventing a federal rule from making “hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens” into criminals and abridging their Second Amendment rights in the process. 

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A spokesperson for Knudsen did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the U.S. Supreme Court decision late Monday.

“This significance of this case goes beyond any firearm accessory and gun rights. No federal agency should be able to create criminal code without Congressional authorization,” Knudsen said in April after filing the amicus brief with other states in support of the plaintiffs, Gun Owners of America.

The justices’ decision not to hear the cases comes on the heels of a decision in June in which the justices by a 6-3 vote expanded gun-possession rights, weakening states’ ability to limit the carrying of guns in public.

The cases the justices declined to hear were an appeal from a Utah gun rights advocate and another brought by the gun rights group Gun Owners of America and others. As is typical the justices made no comments in declining to hear the cases and they were among many the court rejected Monday, the first day of the court’s new term.

The Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks took effect in 2019 and came about as a result of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. The gunman, a 64-year-old retired postal service worker and high stakes gambler, used assault-style rifles to fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes into the crowd of 22,000 music fans. Most of the rifles were fitted with bump stock devices and high-capacity magazines. A total of 58 people were killed in the shooting and two died later. More than 850 people were injured.

The Trump administration’s move was an about-face for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2010, under the Obama administration, the agency found that bump stocks should not be classified as a “machinegun” and therefore should not be banned under federal law. Under the Trump administration, officials revisited that determination and found it incorrect.

The high court previously declined a different opportunity to take a case involving the ban.

The cases the court rejected Monday are W. Clark Aposhian v. Merrick B. Garland, 21-159, and Gun Owners of America v. Merrick B. Garland, 21-1215.

— Reporter Seaborn Larson contributed to this story.

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