Supreme Court to hear challenge to federal ban on gun 'bump stocks'

The Supreme Court granted a request Friday to hear a challenge to the current ban on so-called gun "bump stocks." File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI

Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court granted a request Friday to review a legal challenge against the federal prohibition on bump stocks, which are devices designed to increase the firing speed of semi-automatic rifles.

Both the Biden administration and advocates of gun rights urged the justices to address the matter after federal appellate courts diverged in their opinions regarding the legality of the ban.

The nationwide prohibition on bump stocks was implemented in 2019, nearly 18 months following the mass shooting in Las Vegas that prompted the ban. Gun owners were ordered to either dispose of the devices or surrender them to authorities.

Michael Cargill, a licensed dealer and gun owner, instigated legal proceedings, arguing that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives lacked the legal authority to enforce the prohibition.

Under federal law, a "machine gun" is described as any weapon with the capacity to fire multiple shots automatically, without manual reloading, through a single trigger function. Cargill's argument is that bump stocks do not align with the legal definition of a "machine gun," and, at a minimum, the law allows for varying interpretations.

"ATF for many years recognized that bump-stock-equipped semi-automatic weapons are not 'machineguns.' Its sudden reversal can only be explained as a decision to allow political expediency to trump the rule of law," Richard Samp, a lawyer with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, told NBC.

The legality of bump-stocks has been a battle that's played out in the court system since the ban was first implemented. While both the district court and a panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit sided with the government, a larger panel of judges on the appeals court delivered a divided opinion and overturned it on Jan. 6

Bump stocks increase a gun's rate of fire by using the recoil to have the gun fire continuously, and some guns can fire between 400 and 500 rounds per minute.