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Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to ban on bump stocks

The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2018.(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider a challenge to the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks, a rapid-fire device used in the 2017 mass killing of 59 people gunned down in Las Vegas.

The dispute had more to do with the federal government’s decision-making process than the weapons ban itself. Challengers contended lower courts allowed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives too much leeway to impose the ban without greater congressional input.

For decades, limiting the regulatory power of federal agencies has been a paramount goal of conservatives. The Supreme Court has cut back on agency deference, most recently last June, without stripping agencies of the power to interpret ambiguous regulations.

The Supreme Court refused last year to upend the ban on bump stocks, a device that allows rifles to mimic automatic weapons. The ban prohibits owning, buying, selling or “otherwise transferring” bump stocks.

The weapon was used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 that killed 59 people and injured 869 others. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

In February 2018, President Donald Trump instructed the attorney general to regulate bump stocks’ use, and 10 months later, Justice Department officials issued the ban, giving owners 90 days to either turn bump stocks over to federal agents or melt, shred or crush them.

Bump stocks combine two legal devices, a plastic stock and a firearm, that together function like a machine gun. The bump stock harnesses the recoil of the rifle to accelerate trigger pulls, technically “bumping” the trigger for each shot after it bounces off the shooter’s shoulder.


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