Supreme Court Rejects Ban on Gun Bump Stocks in 6-3 ‘Cargill’ Ruling


On June 14, 2024, the Supreme Court struck down a ban on bump stocks. The decision was 6 to 3, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority. The case was [Attorney General Merrick] Garland v. Cargill. The challenger was Michael Cargill, a gun shop owner in Austin, Texas.

“Over five years ago I swore I would defend the Constitution of the United States, even if I was the only plaintiff in the case. I did just that,” Cargill said.

The court found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had exceeded its power by prohibiting the bump-stock device.

Justice Thomas wrote in the majority decision, “We hold that a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machine gun’ because it cannot fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger.”

It’s important to remember that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had already concluded that bump-stock equipped guns were not considered machine guns under federal law.

The federal government approved the sale of bump stocks in 2010. More than 500,000 bump stocks were in circulation by the time the government reversed itself and banned them in 2019. The ban was enacted by the Trump administration after a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.

Under the ban, possession or sale of bump stocks could have lead to prison time.

ATF, Justice Thomas added, had overstepped its authority in issuing a rule that classified bump stocks as machine guns.

Writing in the decision, Justice Thomas said, “Moreover, it is difficult to understand how ATF can plausibly argue otherwise, given that its consistent position for almost a decade in numerous separate decisions was that [the statute] does not capture semiautomatic rifles equipped with bump stocks.”

The Supreme Court basically aligned with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans, which struck down the bump stock ban when it ruled in the Cargill case last year. The court’s majority in the 13-3 decision found that “a plain reading of the statutory language” showed that weapons fitted with bump stocks could not be regulated as machine guns.

In a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, Justice Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “The majority puts machine guns back in civilian hands.”

“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 bump stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle fires ‘automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.’ Because I, like Congress, call that a machine gun, I respectfully dissent,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

Mark Chenoweth, president of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which represented Cargill, cheered the decision and said it reaffirmed their position that ATF didn’t have the power to rewrite laws.

“The statute Congress passed did not ban bump stocks, and ATF does not have the power to do so on its own,” he said in a statement. “This result is completely consistent with the Constitution’s assignment of all legislative power to Congress. Bump-stock opponents should direct any views at Congress, not the court, which faithfully applied the statute in front of it.”

Under the National Firearms Act of 1934, Congress outlawed machine guns, defined as “any weapon which 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 Gun Control Act of 1968 included parts that can be used to convert a firearm into a machine gun.

Gun Tests reviewed a Slide Fire SSAR-15 bump stock back in 2013. The attachment was supposed to enable a semiautomatic rifle to fire much faster. That wasn’t our experience. We found:

“The rifle’s recoil resets the trigger — or is supposed to — and the continued forward pressure on the fore end and rearward nudge by your trigger finger causes the rifle to bounce back and forth as round after round rips out quickly, under your careful control. Thus you can supposedly get the effect of a fully auto gun with none of the legal hassle associated with such items. But it didn’t work for us,” our review said.

Read the decision here:

Garland v Cargill Bump Stock Decision

Find other coverage of bump stocks on

NSSF supports bump-stock litigation

Firing Line

Slide Fire SSAR-15 Bump Stock Review (at the bottom of the article)



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