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A few days ago (June 14, 2024) in Garland v Cargill, the US Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision ruled that bump stocks are not machine guns. Actually, the Court ruled they are not “machineguns” and the Court uses that single word throughout the opinion as that is how the term appears in the National Firearms Act (NFA):

Congress has long restricted access to “ ‘machinegun[s],’ ”a category of firearms defined by the ability to “shoot, auto-
matically more than one shot . . . by a single function of the trigger.” 26 U. S. C. §5845(b); see also 18 U. S. C. §922(o).

But I will use the conventional term “machine gun” here to mean the same thing as “machinegun” under the NFA.

This is not a Second Amendment case, but it is a very important case because it beats back another brazen attempt by a regulatory agency to exceed its authority under statutory law.

[Also, it contains an excellent discussion (complete with a great series of illustrations!) explaining the function of a “disconnector” in a semi-automatic firearm. I never really understood what the heck a disconnector did, so that discussion was an unexpected bonus.]

You can read the linked opinion if you want more detail on the majority’s reasoning, but the short version is that they didn’t buy ATF’s claim that a bump stock fit within the definition of allowing more than one shot to be fired automatically by a single function of the trigger. A bump stock is a modified stock that allows a shooter to apply forward pressure using the support (nontrigger) hand to move the stock forward in an efficient way that, with some practice, will result in another trigger pull firing another round, successively. Some bump stocks (“mechanical bump stocks”) contain internal springs to assist with forward motion after recoil, but the bump stocks at issue in this case relied only on the support hand supplying that forward pressure.

[If I accidentally type “bump stop” you’ll have to forgive me as I made liberal use of the bump stops on my Jeep Gladiator up in Tillamook recently; I’m told we had four wheels airborne flying up a sand hill.]

The fact that ATF for many years held the opposite opinion, recoiling from the insane notion of treating bump stocks as machine guns, until recent occurrence of the Las Vegas mass shooting (only mass shooting involving bump stocks) itself acted as a sort of political bump stock causing ATF to pull the trigger, didn’t help the ATF’s case.

Nor did it help that ATF treated as outside the definition of machine gun a type of shotgun that fired successively with a single trigger pull upon repeated operation of the pump.

Nor did it help that even Senator Feinstein thought it was nuts for ATF to treat bump stocks as machine guns, absent change in law.

So this is a very good case of SCOTUS cleaning up regulatory BS aka bullshit aka bull shit.

But it’s not a Second Amendment case and it won’t help us use bump stocks in California, which has banned them. (The opinion points out that forward pressure can be applied without an actual bump stock, but the bump stock adds efficiency and accuracy.)

I’m actually a little concerned about Alito’s concurrence which provides a surprisingly (and inappropriately in my view) warm invitation to Congress to provide a legislative fix and ban bump stocks before anothet attack like the one in Las Vegas. Seems out of character for Alito, maybe the recent flag controversy is getting to him? Or maybe it’s a dare and he knows gun control costs Democrats seats.

The suggestion by Alito that NFA could be amended to treat bump stocks as machine guns makes me less optimistic about the Court ruling NFA unconstitutional, even though it appears to be largely, if not entirely, unconstitutional under the Bruen standard. Keep in mind that despite Hollywood propaganda, use of machine guns by criminals is so rare as to be practically nonexistent.