The U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to strike down a ban on bump stocks introduced following the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead.
The justices may be preparing to hear two lawsuits challenging the bump stock ban, which was introduced by then President Donald Trump in 2018, as the new judicial term begins on October 3.
A bump stock is a firearm attachment that allows a semi-automatic weapon to shoot almost as fast as a machine gun does. A bump stock was used by the Las Vegas shooter.
Trump instructed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take action to regulate bump stocks and the department redefined them as machine guns, meaning they are illegal under already existing law.
Two lawsuits challenging the ban – W. Clark Aposhian v. Attorney General Merrick and Gun Owners of America v. Garland – were due to be discussed by the nine justices at their conference on September 28.
The cases center on whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was in error when it defined bump stocks as machine guns under a 1986 law that bans machine guns. The ATF had not previously defined bump stocks in this way.
The Supreme Court has previously appeared reluctant to take up challenges to the bump stock ban and the justices have sent several Second Amendment cases back to the lower courts. They may wish to see how lower courts deal with the bump stock question before weighing in.
President Joe Biden’s administration has also asked the Supreme Court not to hear the cases. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the ban in 2020 but Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett has joined since, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.
The Supreme Court’s majority ruling in a landmark firearms case in June may also indicate a willingness to address the bump stock ban.
Newsweek has asked Gun Owners of America for comment.
In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen all six conservative justices voted to strike down a New York state law that required anyone who wanted to carry a concealed handgun outside the home to show “proper cause” for why they needed the license.
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court’s longest serving member, authored the majority opinion.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the majority but both wrote separate opinions saying that some regulations could be permissible.
“Although the Biden administration urged the Court not to hear the [bump stock] cases, many conservative justices are hungry to expand the scope of the Second Amendment, especially Justice Thomas,” Paul Collins, a legal studies and political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, told Newsweek.
“If accepted, this case will mark the first time in almost 90 years that the justices weigh in on significant gun control measures involving regulations of particular attributes of firearms,” he said.