#30: Bump Stocks and Other Detritus

Bump stocks are a “thing” at SCOTUS this year. It’s a common term in the gun world but lesser known in common American parlance. A “bump” is commonly known as a light blow or a jolting collision, as “a nasty bump on the head.”  Or, as “the car bumped along the rutted track.” At SCOTUS, the word bump stock envisions a highly valued and much desired tool needing statutory interpretation, if not full-blown Second Amendment endearment.  

Gun enthusiasts know bump stocks like fishermen know how to hook, line, and reel in every fish that bites. In court, people sue and sometimes win. In the gun world, people get killed. In fishing, it’s just fish getting killed. At SCOTUS, it’s both. The court knows bump stocks are used to kill people the way they know that fishing is not protected by the Second Amendment.

On June 14, 2024, SCOTUS handed down a ruling with major implications for firearm regulation. In a 6-3 decision, the conservative majority found that the government exceeded its authority when it banned bump stocks. The gun accessory allows users to re-engage the trigger continuously, dramatically increasing the rate of fire.[1] A majority of the justices seem to think that’s just fine. The essence of the ruling is based on a statutory definition of machine guns, which are illegal, and guns with bump stocks, which the court found are not machine guns.

The term “machinegun” means any weapon that shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or a combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.[2]

A bump stock is a firearms accessory designed to facilitate the process of bump firing. Bump firing is the practice of using the recoil of a semiautomatic firearm to increase its rate of fire. We know that because that’s what the gunman in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting used to kill fifty-eight people, including himself. He wounded over 500 other people at a music festival. Most people there loved music. The shooter loved guns, killing, and bump stocks. He could not buy a machine gun, so he bought bump stocks and turned his high-powered rifles into machine guns. He fired over 1,000 rounds in eleven minutes.

That horrific shooting woke up the National Rifle Association. It endorsed stronger restrictions. Top Republican lawmakers said they would consider making them off-limits. Former President Trump said he supported a ban. His administration enacted one in December 2018, with the A.T.F. issuing a new regulation that banned bump stocks. It went into effect on March 26, 2019, and the A.T.F. urged anyone who owned a bump stock to turn it into an ATF office or to destroy it, posting detailed instructions on its website. Since then, the AFT estimates that roughly 520,000 bump stocks were produced between 2010 and 2017.[3]

Garland v. Cargill was not based on a violation of the Second Amendment. Instead, the conservatives on the court argued that the ATF did not have the power to ban bump stocks because the law only bans devices that made guns into “machine guns” or guns that could fire multiple rounds quickly based on “a single pull of the trigger.’ It focused on “textualism,” or making legal rulings based on an interpretation or meaning of the text. The dissenting justices argued that bump stocks effectively turned weapons into machine guns whether or not it fit the strict definition the other justices applied.[4]

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent to Justice Thomas’s opinion that there was no commonsense difference between a machine gun and a semiautomatic firearm with a bump stock. “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,” she wrote. [5]

Technically speaking, SCOTUS used a work-around called “statutory interpretation,” to get past the Second Amendment argument. That is political cover. “The Court’s lineup in the Cargill case perfectly tracked the Justices’ ideological druthers when it comes to firearms. Although the statutory interpretation issue in Cargill was completely different from the issue the Court faced in a key Second Amendment case two years ago, it cannot be a coincidence that all eight of the Justices who remain on the Court from that time voted the same way: either to invalidate both New York’s gun-control law under the Second Amendment and the bump stock ban as beyond the scope of the federal statute (Republican appointees); or to uphold both forms of gun control (Democratic appointees).”[6]

 “In a highly technical 19-page ruling, Thomas concluded that the law does not support the ATF’s rule banning bump stocks. First, he explained, semiautomatic rifles that are equipped with bump stocks do not fire more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger.” Each time that a shooter fires the rifle, Thomas emphasized, the shooter must “release pressure from the trigger and allow it to reset before re-engaging the trigger for another shot.” The bump stock, he wrote, “merely reduces the amount of time that elapses between separate ‘functions’ of the trigger” by allowing the shooter to quickly press the trigger again. Moreover, Thomas continued, even if a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock does fire more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger,” it does not do so “automatically,” as the law also requires. Thomas explained that if a shooter wants to fire multiple shots using a semiautomatic rifle with a bump stock, he ‘must also actively maintain just the right amount of forward pressure on the rifle’s front grip with his non-trigger hand.’ This additional input from the shooter, he reasoned, means that the shots are not automatic.”[7]

The Hill predicted in May of 2024 that SCOTUS might rule that bump stocks were not technically “machine guns” and thereby fuel the gun rights debate, at least in terms of the marketplace for guns. “The Trump administration, in a rare break from gun rights groups, quickly banned bump stocks after the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert that was the deadliest in U.S. history. In the ensuing years, gun rights groups challenged the underlying rationale that bump stocks are effectively machine guns. . . gun stores are currently treating bump stocks and similar devices like machine guns, which are banned.”[8]

Following  SCOUTS’s lead, gun stores will get back in the mass shooting market, but not in every state. Their reversal of the federal Trump-era ban on bump stocks impacts federal law, not state law. The win for gun rights did not mean that bump stocks would be legally accessible nationwide. Sixteen states, plus Washington, D.C., have their own laws banning bump stocks according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun-control group that advocates banning bump stocks.[9]

Randy Kozuch, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said the decision essentially put the ATF back in its lane.[10]

Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, said, “This is a great victory for everyone in the country. Whether you’re pro-gun, anti-gun, [this] is just not about firearms,  Cargill told The Texas Tribune. “This is about an administrative agency deciding that they’re going to create a law and administrative agencies do not have the authority to do that. Only Congress can do that.”[11]

Although under his administration, the ATF’s final rule on bump stocks first came into effect, former President Trump said, “The Supreme Court has spoken, and their decision should be respected.”[12]

Bump stock challenges by presidents stem from gun control laws Congress enacted in the 1930s. Those were the days when gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger used machine guns to rob banks and ambush police. Federal and state lawmakers wrote laws to require gun owners to register their machine guns. Decades later,  in 1968, Congress amended the law to prohibit Americans from transferring or possessing a machine gun altogether in most circumstances. The amended law defined “machine gun” as a weapon that fires more than one round with “a single function of the trigger.”[13] That exact phrase, “a single function of the trigger” was the focus of the appeal and Justice Thomas’s narrow focus on whether gun stocks were legal.[14]

The Cargill case got to the Supreme Court because two lower federal courts disagreed. A US District Court in Texas and a panel of three judges on the conservative 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Justice Department’s position that bump stocks turned rifles into machine guns. But the full 5th Circuit Court reconsidered the case and issued a fractured opinion last year siding with Cargill. That more or less forced Scotus to hear the case. Naturally, the conservative wing of SCOTUS won out and found for Cargill by rejecting the District Court and holding that Mr. Cargill’s bump stocks did not turn his rifles into machine guns. Essentially, SCOTUS sided with gun rights groups, including the NRA opposing the ban on bump stocks. The ATF estimates that as many as 520,000 bump stocks were sold between 2010 and 2018.[15]

The device replaces a semiautomatic rifle’s regular stock, the part of a gun that rests against the shoulder. It lets shooters use the recoil of the weapon to mimic automatic firing if they hold their trigger finger in place.

Under the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the ATF said that bump stocks, which were invented in the early 2000s, did not transform semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. But it reversed its position at Trump’s urging in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting and another shooting in 2018 that left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida.[16]

President Biden issued a statement on the Cargill decision. “Notwithstanding this decision, my Administration will continue to take action. I took on the NRA and signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – the most significant gun violence reduction legislation to pass Congress in nearly 30 years. My Administration established the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, made historic investments in mental health to support people in times of crisis, and expanded background checks to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. We know thoughts and prayers are not enough. I call on Congress to ban bump stocks, pass an assault weapon ban, and take additional action to save lives – send me a bill and I will sign it immediately.”[17]

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, along with many other congressional office holders reacted to SCOTUS’s decision, saying, “The Only Reason You Need a Bump Stock Is to Engage In Mass Murder.”[18] His impassioned statement rang bells all over the country that everyone thought had been muffled following the Las Vegas mass murder of fifty-eight people and the wounding of 500 others. His speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate went directly to the Cargill decision and Justice Thomas’ support of bump stock sales.

“No law that we pass will end gun homicides in this country. No law that we pass will completely eliminate mass shootings. But there simply are technologies like the bump stock that turn a mass shooting in which 5 or 10 people might have died into a 58-person slaughter. It is just true that when you have a weapon like an AR-15, or you have a converted semiautomatic weapon with a bump stock, that the slaughter is worse, that more people die. Why on Earth would we choose to hand to these killers weapons that are designed for one purpose and one purpose only: mass slaughter. You do not need a bump stock in order to protect your home. You do not need a machine gun in order to hunt for sport. The only reason you need a bump stock is to engage in mass murder.”[19]

Soon after Cargill came down, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to ban bump stocks. U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts blocked the bipartisan bill.  Ricketts argued that the Supreme Court made the right decision and said the bill didn’t just ban bump stocks but also “targets other firearm accessories.” Ricketts added that the bill violates the Second Amendment. “This bill is about banning as many firearm accessories as possible and giving ATF broad authority to ban most semi-automatic firearms,” Ricketts argued the bill was an unconstitutional attack on law-abiding gun owners. Ricketts, a Nebraska Republican, objected to New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich’s request that the chamber approve his bill — cosponsored by Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins — by unanimous consent.[20]

Actually, the problem is bigger than just bump stocks. For the gun lobby and the gun industry, the future may be in fully automatic machine guns. That would give shooters more firepower than police agencies and consistent with weapons currently limited to the U.S. Army. In the near future we may see the gun industry and third-party sellers continue to produce devices that make it easy to convert semi-automatic firearms into illegal machine guns in a matter of minutes.[21]

Today, the gun industry is into auto sears, binary triggers, and forced-reset triggers. These devices include replacement triggers for semi-automatic firearms, including AR- and AK-style firearms, which let shooters fire one shot when they pull the trigger and another when they release the trigger, effectively doubling the rate of gunfire.[22]

An auto sear lets a pistol shooter fire at rates of 1,200 rounds per minute. That’s much higher than the simple bump stock which lets rifle shooters fire up to 800 rounds per minute. Between 2017 and 2021, the ATF recovered 5,454 machine gun conversion devices, including Glock switches,  a 570% increase from the preceding five years.[23]

Giffords recently identified nine products that could be the “next bump stock.”[24]

  1.  TRIGGER CRANK: The NFA defines machine guns as firearms that discharge more than one bullet with a “single function of the trigger.” The gun industry has exploited this language through the development of rotating trigger cranks. Like bump stocks, these devices can be attached to a gun and increase its rate of fire significantly. Turning the crank activates a gear whose teeth depress the trigger—allowing a shooter to discharge several shots per revolution.
  2. HIGH-CAPACITY SHOTGUNS. In the 1960s, the NFA was amended to limit the availability of large-caliber firearms that were becoming an increasing threat to law enforcement. These firearms became known as “destructive devices” and were regulated under the NFA’s tax and registration provisions. However, because many shotguns that fire large-caliber shells are traditionally used for hunting, ATF is able to exempt models of shotguns that they deem suitable for “sporting purposes” from regulation under the NFA. The gun lobby has exploited this exemption for a long time.
  3. ARMOR-PIERCING PISTOLS: Short-barreled rifles are unusually dangerous because of their concealability, accuracy, and ability to penetrate body armor. They are regulated by the NFA for these reasons. Certain newer model pistols are designed to be just as dangerous but manage to avoid NFA regulation. They can fire rifle rounds capable of penetrating body armor but are concealable like handguns. Armor-piercing pistols escape the NFA’s definition of short-barreled rifles because they are not designed to be fired from the shoulder; nevertheless, their short length paired with the number of rounds they fire means they present a similar, if not identical, threat to public safety.
  4. AR PISTOL ARM BRACE. The AR Pistol Arm Brace is an attachment that allows a shooter to fire a pistol with rifle-like accuracy. The AR Pistol Brace can be quickly attached and detached, meaning that the pistol can be concealed and then swiftly converted into a weapon with the accuracy of a rifle. In 2015, ATF determined that AR pistols with arm braces are short-barreled rifles since they can be fired from the shoulder and have a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches in length. However, in March 2017, ATF clarified that a pistol with an arm brace attached is not a short-barreled rifle unless the arm brace is being used with the intent to fire the weapon from the shoulder. ATF’s decision clearly fails to address the significant public safety threat posed by these pistol arm braces.
  5. 50 CALIBER RIFLE AND .50 CALIBER AMMUNITION. The NFA requires the registration of “destructive devices,” generally including any firearm of more than .50 caliber. The semi-automatic .50 caliber rifle is therefore the largest caliber firearm that does not fall under the NFA. The sniper rifle is deadly at distances of a mile or more and is considered a national security threat due to its ability to shoot down a helicopter. Designed for use in military situations and utilized by military units across the world, these weapons can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, stationary and taxiing airplanes, and other high-value military targets. In the hands of terrorists or other dangerous individuals, .50 caliber rifles could easily cause a mass casualty incident. The gun industry actively markets these weapons, which are legal in every state but California.
  6. INCENDIARY ROUNDS AND TRACER ROUNDS. Armor-piercing ammunition, rounds composed of heavy metals that can defeat heavy military equipment such as tanks, has been regulated by ATF since 1986, as long as it can be fired from a handgun. However, since the 1980s, the gun industry has developed and sold many other kinds of highly dangerous ammunition. Specialized ammunition such as incendiary rounds are able to spread fire on impact. Tracer rounds allow a shooter to see where rounds are tracking at night. These kinds of ammunition are sometimes regulated by states but not the federal government. Since 1986, ATF no longer requires ammunition sellers to maintain records of sales even though it is a federal crime for prohibited persons to purchase any ammunition.
  7. THE SHOCKWAVE OR SCATTERGUN. One category of weapons that poses a serious threat to public safety is a short-barreled shotgun. These weapons combine the power of a shotgun with the concealability of a handgun. Because of these concerns, shotguns are governed by the NFA if they have a barrel fewer than 18 inches in length. However, this restriction only applies to firearms that are designed to be fired from the shoulder. Other firearms that fire shotgun shot may be subject to the NFA as AOWs (“any other weapons”). ATF has interpreted the AOW restriction to apply only to weapons “capable of being concealed” and claims that only firearms that have an overall length of fewer than 26 inches are capable of being concealed. This claim has allowed the gun industry to design firearms that skirt these restrictions by creating firearms that discharge shotgun shot, have a barrel that is fewer than 18 inches in length, and an overall length of over 26 inches. (The AOW restriction also applies to smooth-bore pistols or revolvers. It is not clear why the guns described here have evaded AOW classification by ATF assmooth-bore pistols.) Mossberg obtained approval for their new weapon from ATF but came into conflict with Texas law, which used language more straightforward than the NFA. However, by September of 2017, Mossberg had lobbied for, and the Texas legislature enacted, a new law legalizing these weapons in Texas. The Remington Model 870 Tac-14 is a similar gun. It has a 14-inch barrel and 26.3-inch overall length and fires shotgun shells. Pew Pew Tactical, a popular gun enthusiast blogger, confirms Remington’s strategy to aid and abet people who want to work around the NFA. Remington Model 870 Tac-14.
  8. PISTOL CONVERSION KITS. The NFA regulates devices for converting firearms into machine guns but does not regulate devices for converting pistols into short-barreled rifles and shotguns. A person who wants to cause harm would prefer such a weapon because the longer barrel length makes it more accurate, and the ability to grip it within two places makes it easier to fire multiple shots quickly. Consequently, pistol conversion kits that effortlessly transform a handgun into a weapon that mimics a short-barreled rifle are the latest craze of the gun industry intent on prioritizing profits over public safety. These kits aren’t cheap but are likely worth the money to street criminals whose aim is to intimidate victims and terrorize neighborhoods.
  9. LARGE CAPACITY AND DETACHABLE MAGAZINES. A firearm’s feeding device (also known as a magazine) is the part of the firearm that holds the ammunition, and a “large capacity” feeding device is one that contains a large amount of ammunition. Some feeding devices are detachable, allowing a shooter to interchange one loaded with fresh ammunition with one that has been “spent.” The size of the feeding device, along with whether it can be detached and replaced, determines when a shooter has to stop and reload. For this reason, the primary feature of an assault weapon today is a detachable, large-capacity feeding device. Large-capacity magazines enable shooters to continue firing at high speed for an extended period of time. Firearms equipped with large capacity magazines were used in the tragedies at Las Vegas (in addition to bump stocks), the Orlando nightclub shooting in which 49 people were killed, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Mass shooters overwhelmingly choose these weapons because they increase casualties.

      Giffords’ mission is clear, especially in the dark shadow cast by SCOTUS in Garland v. Cargill. “Our country is in the grip of a gun violence epidemic. Every American will know a victim of gun violence in their lifetime—this is not normal, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Giffords is fighting to end the gun lobby’s stranglehold on our political system. We’re daring to dream what a future free from gun violence looks like. We’re going to end this crisis, and we’re going to do it together.”

      Their conclusion is as accurate as it is menacing. “Bump stocks are but a chapter in the story of gun technology. Even before bump stocks, the gun industry worked fervently to increase the lethality of weapons, primarily through the development of assault weapons. These efforts display a remarkable disregard for both the intent of the NFA and for public safety. Americans have already suffered the devastating consequences of unacceptable amounts of gun violence because of the unrestrained proliferation of these weapons.”[25]

      At the risk of over-simplification, guns beget gun violence. You cannot have one without the other. Gun violence plagues us because it takes innocent lives and seems impossible to reduce, given the gun lobby’s stranglehold on the Republican Party.

      “No other developed country has such a high rate of gun violence. A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that Americans are 25 times more likely to die from gun homicide than people in other wealthy countries. There are commonsense steps we can take to reduce that toll, but they require acknowledging certain truths. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, and there are approximately 265 million privately owned guns in the U.S., according to researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities. Any sensible discussion about America’s gun violence problem must acknowledge that guns aren’t going away.”[26]

      While true, it’s overly simple. Guns won’t go away. They are here to stay because intelligent, strong-minded, peaceful, reputable citizens have them, need them, and will keep them. One small bite at the problem would be to end legal immunity for gun manufacturers. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun manufacturers and sellers from civil claims brought by victims of gun violence. But arms manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible. They may be held liable for negligent entrustment if it is found that they believed a firearm was intended for use in a crime.[27]

      President Bush signed it into law on October 26, 2005. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association thanked President Bush for signing the Act, for which it had lobbied, describing it as “… the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law”.[28] If nothing else, the fact that the gun industry liked the act, the NRA’s praise of it explains why it is “pro-gun” and by reference, “pro-gun violence.” The simple fact is gun sellers want sales but not responsibility when their products kill thousands of innocent victims every year. 

      There seems to be a trio of interests competing against one another in any discussion of guns. Gun rights exist to protect gun owners. Gun violence is on some but not all gun owners. Gun politics is stuck in the middle because we have two opposing ideologies debating the private ownership of guns. One side advocates for gun control and supports increasingly restrictive regulation. The other side opposes increased restriction.

      And overseeing all of this is the sunshine and rain coming down from the Second Amendment. The Republican Party wants the sunshine. The Democrat Party hates the rain. They occasionally agree on the basic tenant of gun ownership, but never see eye to eye on either the history and tradition of Second Amendment rights or its interpretation by courts. The Second Amendment trumps everything as far as Republicans are concerned. The Second Amendment treats gun owners with gentle hands and ignores the bodies on floors, streets, and public places. Private gun ownership keeps on pace with gun sales. Gun control keeps pace with gun violence.

      “The National Firearms Survey of 2021, currently the nation’s largest and most comprehensive study into American firearm ownership, found that privately-owned firearms are used in roughly 1.7 million defensive usage cases (self-defense inside and outside the home) per year across the nation.  The study also found an increase in diversity among firearm owner demographics, reporting that rates of firearm ownership amongst females and ethnic minorities had risen sharply since the last national survey had been conducted.[29]

      Gun politics are increasingly a question of demography and political party affiliation. The end game, politically, is financial support of the gun industry by Republicans who oppose gun regulation efforts in state and federal legislatures. On the other side of the gun violence fence is financial support and votes for gun regulation by Democrats.

      FiveThirtyEight was a website focused on opinion poll analysis, politics, economics, and sports blogging. Its founder, Nate Silver, left in 2023. Before he left, and after ABC News took over, it was a leader in poll analysis. Its name comes from the number of electors in the U.S. Electoral College and its founders’ skill in polling aggregation.[30]

      In 2022, FiveThirtyEight released a study titled, “Just How Far Apart Are The Two Parties On Gun Control?”[31]  The study simultaneously explained and confused most readers. “After what feels like a relentless sequence of high-profile mass shootings, Americans are once again debating whether the country needs stronger regulations on guns. Many lawmakers and activists contend that, even in a country as bitterly polarized as the United States, some gun-control measures actually attract wide support — whether Americans actually vote for the measures they say they support is another matter. However, when you compare specific questions by party response, there’s a gap.”

      1. 55% of Democrats strongly supported requiring background checks for all gun purchasers. And so did 45% of Republicans. When asked, 91% of Democrats strongly supported universal background checks against 77% of Republicans—a difference of 14 points. That’s almost a consensus.
      2. In April 2021, the Pew Research Center asked about barring people with mental health issues from buying guns. 90% of Democrats said they strongly favored that. 85% of Republicans agreed, a mere difference of 5 percentage points. But there was much debate about which mental illnesses should be included and whether “red flag” laws were supported.
      3. But when the question was about a law banning assault weapons a big distinction was drawn. 83% of Democrats strongly supported banning assault weapons, while only 37% of Republicans—a difference of 46 percentage points.
      4. When asked about letting teachers carry weapons in school, only 24% of Democrats liked that idea, while 66% of Republicans were in favor.
      5. FiveThirtyEight reported that their study confirmed that gun-control laws raise great passion between political parties. General support for a proposed law was OK if the party thought it would bring significant change.
      6. When asked whether the voter was “very” or “somewhat” confident that passing stricter gun-control laws would reduce mass shootings, 87% of Democrats thought stricter laws would reduce mass shootings. But only 34% of Republicans thought so.
      7. When asked whether they or someone in their household owned a gun, only 28% of Democrats said yes, while 48% of Republicans said they did. FiveThirtyEight explained that most Americans don’t own guns—a small share owns a lot, which is why the U.S. has more guns than people. Their research seems to support the notion that gun ownership is much more important to Republicans than Democrats, and conversely, gun control is more important to Democrats than Republicans.
      8. The most important question asked was whether the respondent believed that protecting the right to own a gun was more or less important than protecting people from gun violence. A plurality of Republicans said both are equally important. A majority of Democrats said protecting people from violence is more important.  
      9. As America continues to debate gun ownership and/or gun violence this data point, the gap between equality and more is the most meaningful reality. It suggests that presidents and administrations may be advanced by whether voters love owning guns more than they want to protect people from guns.

      FiveThirtyEight did not differentiate gun issues by state. It is differentiated by people and political parties. It is an inarguable fact that in red states, gun reform means making it easier to buy and carry guns. In blue states, gun reform means controlling gun violence.

      Bump stocks are banned only in blue states, but those 16 states have 45% of the U.S. population. It is legally unclear whether bump stocks are banned in Colorado, Indiana, Louisana, and Mississippi.[32] The biggest manufacturer of bump stocks used to be Slide Fire, in the small town of Moran, Texas, about 130 miles west of Fort Worth. It closed shortly after the Las Vegas mass shooting.[33] It sold bump stocks, called a “SSAK-47 XRS, and was the sole manufacturer.  Shortly after SCOTUS handed down the Cargill case, Slide Fire told CBS News it would be reopening its business again.

      Three victims of the Las Vegas shooting have filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status against Slide Fire and “any future bump stock manufacturers for negligence.” [34]  Bloomberg reported in October 2017 that the inventor of bump stocks, Jeremiah Cottle, became a millionaire and built an empire on the device used in the Las Vegas massacre.[35]

      Apparently, there is only one manufacturer—Slide Fire Solutions, LP. Mr. Cottle gave an interview to AmmoLand in 2016. He said, “Bump stocks were intended to assist persons whose hands have limited mobility. It’s geared toward people like me, who love full auto.” He said bump stocks are sold only to people whose hands had limited mobility.[36]

      Bump stocks use the power of the weapon’s recoil to make it fire much faster. The shooter holds the bump stock to their shoulder as they would a regular stock. Then, when a single shot is fired, the gun slides backward and “bumps” the stock back into the shooter’s trigger finger, starting the rapid cycle over again. Over and over and over again. It serves no other purpose than to increase the rate of fire. It lowers accuracy and would not work while hunting, or in accuracy and precision competitions. The ATF estimates that 700,000 bump stocks have been sold since 2009.[37]  

      Possibly, SCOTUS saved both the inventor of Bump Stocks and any new sellers from class action cases. Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-01) released a statement after SCOTUS released its decision in Garland v. Cargill. The decision hit hard in Las Vegas Nevada. Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-01), a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, released the following statement after the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Garland v. Cargill.

      “I am appalled at the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the years-long ban on bump stock devices,” said Rep. Dina Titus. “In siding with a far-fetched challenge to the ATF rule, conservatives on the Court are allowing these destructive devices to return to our streets. This ruling hits home for many communities that have been impacted by gun violence caused by rapid-fire gun accessories, including District One. To this day, the Route 91 massacre in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Let me be clear that the level of carnage we saw was enabled by bump stocks. This is a setback, to say the very least, for an issue especially close to my district, but I will never stop fighting to keep these devices away from our communities. Congress must pass my Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act to codify the ATF ruling, legislatively treat bump stocks as machine guns, and ban them once and for all.”[38]

      American gun politics is increasingly a question of demography and political party affiliation and features well-known gender, age, and income gaps according to major social surveys. “Republicans and Democrats are sharply divided over the impact of gun ownership on public safety: 79% of Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party say that gun ownership increases safety, while a nearly identical share of Democrats and Democratic leaners (78%) say it decreases safety.”[39]

      The 6-3 ruling is based on ideology. The court’s majority held that an almost 100-year-old law aimed at banning machine guns cannot “legitimately be interpreted to include bump stocks.”[40]

      President Biden said,  “We know thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Biden said. “I call on Congress to ban bump stocks, pass an assault weapon ban, and take additional action to save lives — send me a bill and I will sign it immediately.”[41]

      Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The only way to permanently close this loophole is through legislation.”[42]

      The National Rifle Association said it would also support a ban, although it subsequently backtracked. The group welcomed Friday’s ruling in Garland v. Cargill, saying on X that the court had “properly restrained executive branch agencies to their role of enforcing, and not making, the law.”[43]

      Slate said, “Clarence Thomas’ Opinion legalizing bump stocks is indefensible. . . Thomas’ majority opinion reads like the fevered work of a gun fetishist, complete with diagrams and even a GIF. Justice, who worships at the altar of the firearm, plainly relished the opportunity to depict the inner workings of these cherished tools of slaughter. It’s no surprise that he borrowed the images from the avidly pro-gun Firearms Policy Foundation. To reach his preferred result, Thomas falsely accused ATF of taking the “position that bump stocks were legal, then “abruptly” reversing course after the Las Vegas shooting.[44]

      The New York Times said, “The court’s decision has the potential to undercut President Biden’s efforts to restrict other gun accessories that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire at speeds rivaling those of machine guns.”[45]

      Bloomberg said,Supreme Court’s Bump Stock Ruling Is Dystopian Nonsense.”[46]

      Former President Trump also chimed in on Garland v. Cargill as reported by AP:

      “Less than six years ago, then-President Donald Trump took on the influential gun lobby after the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history. He announced that he had told the National Rifle Association that ‘bump stocks are gone,’ arguing they ‘turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.’ On Friday, Trump’s campaign to return to the White House defended a Supreme Court decision to strike down his own ban on those devices. Trump has been endorsed by the NRA and claimed this year in a speech that he ‘did nothing’ to restrict guns. The Supreme Court’s ruling called new attention to Trump’s complicated record on the Second Amendment, one that he has downplayed this year given his conservative base’s aversion to gun control — even as Americans broadly support stricter restrictions on firearms, according to public polling. As president, Trump grappled with the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, and other mass shootings, and at times pledged to strengthen gun laws, only to back away from those vows. At a meeting with survivors and family members of the Parkland shooting in 2018, for instance, Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks” and later scolded a Republican senator for being “afraid of the NRA.” He claimed he would stand up to the gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence.[47]

      The larger truth about guns, bump stocks, and gun violence is stark. None of it is about gun ownership as secured by the Second Amendment. All of it is about the politics of gun usage. If we can breach the partisan divide, we can protect gun ownership without supporting mass shootings.


      [1] Garland, Attorney General, et. al. v. Cargill, Certiorari to the United States Court of Appels for the Fifth Circuit, No. 22-976, June 14, 2024. 144 S. Ct. 374.

      [2]  Sec. 1 of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (26 U.S.C. § 5845(b)

      [3] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/14/us/bump-stock-vegas-shooting-supreme-court.html

      [4] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/classroom/daily-news-lessons/2024/06/supreme-court-strikes-down-federal-ban-on-bump-stocks

      [5] Ibid.

      [6] https://verdict.justia.com/2024/06/17/supreme-court-bump-stock-case-reveals-the-limits-of-statutory-interpretation

      [7] https://www.scotusblog.com/2024/06/supreme-court-strikes-down-bump-stock-ban/

      [8] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/classroom/daily-news-lessons/2024/06/supreme-court-strikes-down-federal-ban-on-bump-stocks

      [9] https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2024-06-14/supreme-court-strikes-down-bump-stock-ban-what-to-know

      [10] Ibid.

      [11] https://www.texastribune.org/2024/06/14/michael-cargill-bump-stock-ban-texas/

      [12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garland_v._Cargill#:~:text=Although%20it%20was%20under%20his,their%20decision%20should%20be%20respected%22.

      [13] https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/14/politics/supreme-court-bump-stocks/index.html#:~:text=ATF

      [14] Ibid.

      [15] https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/14/politics/supreme-court-bump-stocks/index.html#:~:text=ATF%20estimated%20that%20as%20many,their%20trigger%20finger%20in%20place.

      [16] https://www.newsweek.com/samuel-alito-bump-stocks-harry-litman-1913324

      [17] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/06/14/statement-from-president-joe-biden-on-the-supreme-court-decision-garland-v-cargill/

      [18] https://www.murphy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/murphy-the-only-reason-you-need-a-bump-stock-is-to-engage-in-mass-murder#:~:text=That’s%20effectively%20what%20a%20bump,access%20to%20an%20automatic%20weapon.

      [19] https://www.murphy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/murphy-the-only-reason-you-need-a-bump-stock-is-to-engage-in-mass-murder#:~:text=That’s%20effectively%20what%20a%20bump,access%20to%20an%20automatic%20weapon.

      [20] https://nebraskaexaminer.com/2024/06/18/after-u-s-supreme-court-decision-to-allow-bump-stocks-u-s-senate-rejects-bill-to-ban-them/

      [21] https://www.everytown.org/solutions/prohibit-bump-stocks/

      [22] https://www.everytown.org/solutions/prohibit-bump-stocks/

      [23] https://www.everytown.org/solutions/prohibit-bump-stocks/

      [24] https://files.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/18.09-FACT-Legal-Lethal_Reboot_R4.pdf

      [25] Ibid.

      [26] https://time.com/5209901/gun-violence-america-reduction/

      [27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_of_Lawful_Commerce_in_Arms_Act

      [28] Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. “George W. Bush: “Statement on House of Representatives Passage of Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Legislation”, October 20, 2005″. The American Presidency Project. University of California – Santa Barbara.

       NRA. President Bush signs Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

       “Democrats are pushing back against gun dealers”. Newsweek. 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2021-01-17.

       “Hillary Clinton takes aim at gun makers’ best legal defense”. Fortune. Retrieved 2021-01-17.

      [29] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States

      [30] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FiveThirtyEight#

      [31] https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/gun-control-polling-2022/

      [32] Mannweiler, Laura (June 14, 2024). “Supreme Court Strikes Down Bump Stock Ban: What to Know”. U.S. News.

      [33] https://www.cbsnews.com/texas/news/after-supreme-court-strikes-down-ban-bump-stock-inventor-puts-business-up-for-sale/#

      [34] Ibihttps://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-11/the-bump-stock-millionaire-and-the-las-vegas-massacred.

      [35] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-11/the-bump-stock-millionaire-and-the-las-vegas-massacre

      [36] https://www.bradyunited.org/our-approach/industry-oversight/brady-legal/our-cases/prescott-et-al-v-slide-fire-solutions#

      [37] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/bump-stocks-change-semi-automatic-weapons-fired/story?id=11112706

      [38] https://titus.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=3636

      [39] https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2023/06/28/gun-violence-widely-viewed-as-a-major-and-growing-national-problem/#

      [40] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/supreme-court-rules-gun-bump-stocks-ban-unlawful-rcna154651

      [41] Ibid.

      [42] Ibid.

      [43] Ibid.

      [44] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2024/06/supreme-court-opinions-clarence-thomas-bump-stocks-gun-fetishist.html

      [45] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/19/us/bump-stocks-supreme-court-guns.html

      [46] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2024-06-14/bump-stock-ruling-takes-supreme-court-to-a-dystopian-conclusion

      [47] https://apnews.com/article/trump-guns-bump-stocks-supreme-court-

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