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Attorney General Josh Stein Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Federal Rule Banning Bump Stocks

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Contact: Nazneen Ahmed
919-716-0060

23 AGs Argue that Overturning Trump Administration Bump Stock Rule Would Undermine Nearly Century-Long Effort to Protect Americans from Dangerous Automatic Weapons

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today joined a group of 22 other attorneys general urging the Supreme Court to uphold a federal rule banning bump stocks, devices that effectively convert semiautomatic firearms into illegal automatic weapons. In an amicus brief filed in Garland v. Cargill, the coalition urges the Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court’s decision striking down a 2018 Trump Administration regulation that clarified that the federal law banning machine guns also bans bump stock-type devices. The attorneys general assert that the rule aligns with longstanding policies prohibiting automatic weapons and argue that overturning it would pose a threat to public safety and the safety of law enforcement officers.

“Commonsense gun safety measures are critical to keeping our communities, especially our kids, safe amidst rising gun violence,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “I am urging the Supreme Court to make safety a priority and make bump stocks on semiautomatic firearms illegal.”

Federal law has strictly regulated fully automatic, military-grade weapons since 1934 and has banned civilian ownership of new automatic weapons since 1986. Bump stocks — devices that allow a user to fire multiple rounds in seconds with just one pull of a trigger — were created to evade federal regulations and are marketed as workarounds to the ban on automatic weapons. In 2017, the dangers of bump stocks became tragically clear when a man using weapons fitted with bump stocks murdered 58 people in Las Vegas. In response to that massacre, the Trump administration issued a regulation clarifying that a 1986 law making it a crime to own a machine gun also applies to bump stocks.

The 2018 regulation banning bump stocks has faced multiple court challenges, with three federal circuit courts of appeal declining to invalidate it. In a challenge before the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the court, by a three-judge panel, also initially upheld the rule. However, the court reversed its decision, ruling that the law banning machine guns did not unambiguously encompass bump stocks and therefore, it could not be applied against bump stock owners. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Stein and the coalition are urging the Supreme Court to uphold the 2018 rule, asserting that the federal law banning automatic weapons clearly includes bump stocks. They argue that overturning the rule would undermine the US’s nearly century-long effort to restrict civilian use of machine guns and would endanger both the public and law enforcement officers. Additionally, they highlight that at least eighteen jurisdictions have banned or regulated bump stocks, emphasizing that the 2018 rule is critical to fill gaps in state-by-state regulation of these extremely dangerous devices.

Attorney General Stein is joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the brief is available here.

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