Supreme Court Rules Biden’s Gun ‘Bump Stocks’ Ban Unlawful

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 14, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that President Joe Biden’s administration’s federal bump stocks ban is unlawful.

This ban on bump stocks — which are accessories that can be attached to guns to allow quicker fires, similar to machine guns — was first implemented by former President Donald Trump after the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017.

Court Rules That Bump Stocks Are Not Machine Guns

In this 6-3 ruling — which was decided on ideological lines — the Supreme Court voted that a nearly 100-year-old law banning machine guns does not mean that bump stocks, a gun accessory, must be banned as well.

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In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that a firearm with a bump stock accessory does not necessarily mean that it is a machine gun under this law.


About the National Firearms Act

The federal government banned bump stocks in 2017 according to the National Firearms Act, which was first enacted back in 1934.

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This federal law regulated machine guns during a time when the Prohibition era saw a huge skyrocket in gangster violence.

The Dissenting Opinion

While the conservative justices all sided in ruling against the Biden administration’s ban on bump stocks, the liberal justices on the court firmly disagreed with the majority ruling.

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In the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained how bump stocks can make semiautomatic rifles act like machine guns, writing, “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.”

A Rare Move by Sotomayor

As she clearly vehemently rejected the court’s ruling, Sotomayor also made the rare move of reading a summary of her overall dissent while actually in court.

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This decision by Sotomayor further shows how deeply divided the court has become in recent years.

Alito’s Concurring Opinion

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito also admitted that a bump stock can make a weapon act like a machine gun. However, Alito still ruled that this gun accessory can not be banned in this unlawful way according to the 1934 act.

The official portrait of Justice Samuel Alito.

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Alito did write that Congress could choose to enact laws to fully ban the accessory, seemingly pushing Congress to make this decision, which would be legal.


President Biden’s Statement

President Biden has already released a statement explaining his disappointment over the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision. Biden also called on Congress to ban bump stocks once and for all.

President Joe Biden speaking into a microphone.

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“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.”


Democratic Response

Many Democratic lawmakers also released statements similar to Biden’s, expressing their disappointment over this ruling — yet also pushing for Congress to act.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that “the only way to permanently close this loophole is through legislation.”


President Trump’s Stance

Though the Biden administration fought to keep this federal ban in place, the Trump administration was the first to actually enact this ban.

President Donald Trump speaking into a microphone.

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Trump himself called for bump stocks to be banned nationwide after Stephen Paddock used the gun accessory to kill 58 people during a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.


The NRA’s Initial Support

After Trump personally and publicly supported a bump stock ban, many conservatives — and even the National Rifle Association (NRA) — also suggested that they would support a ban.

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However, the NRA eventually backtracked on this initial support. Now, the organization has applauded this recent Supreme Court move, posting on X that the court had “properly restrained executive branch agencies to their role of enforcing, and not making, the law.”


Buying Bump Stocks Around the Country

Though this federal ban has been struck down by the Supreme Court, purchasing bump stocks may remain difficult in the near future.

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Many states have their own bans on bump stocks. The striking down of this federal law doesn’t affect these state laws.


Attacking State Laws

However, gun control organizations have already announced their concern that this Supreme Court decision will lead to gun rights activists working to strike down state laws, as well.

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Esther Sanchez-Gomez, a litigation director at Giffords Law Center, said, “We’ve seen bump stocks cause immense destruction and violence. The majority of justices today sided with the gun lobby instead of the safety of the American people. This is a shameful decision.”