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Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Trump-Era Ban on Bump Stocks

A Trump administration ban on bump stocks — devices that enable a shooter to fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic weapons rapidly after an initial trigger pull — was struck down Friday by the New Orleans-based federal appeals court. The ban was instituted after a gunman perched in a high-rise hotel using bump stock-equipped weapons massacred dozens of people in Las Vegas in 2017. Gun rights advocates have challenged the ban in several courts. The 13-3 ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest on the issue, which is likely to be decided at the Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports. The decision doesn’t have an immediate effect because the case now moves back to lower court to decide how to proceed.

The case was unusual because the issue involves not the Second Amendment but the interpretation of federal statutes. Opponents of the ban argued that bump stocks do not fall under the definition of illegal machine guns in federal law. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says they do, a position now being defended by the Biden administration. “A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of ‘machine gun’ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote for the majority. The court found that the definition of a machine gun — which is set out in two different federal statutes — “does not apply to bump stocks.” The ban had survived challenges at the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the Denver-based 10th Circuit; and the federal circuit court in Washington.


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