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Supreme Court to review Trump-era gun rule banning bump stocks

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a second major Second Amendment case this term: this one on bump stocks.
Al Drago
Getty Images
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a second major Second Amendment case this term: this one on bump stocks.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a second major gun case this term. On Friday the justices said they will review a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, a device the ATF says converts a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun by firing multiple rounds with a single pull on the trigger. Machine guns have been banned under federal law since 1934.

The Trump administration reclassified the devices in 2018 after a mass shooting in Las Vegas in which the shooter used bump stocks on 14 guns and opened fire on a music festival, killing 60 people and wounding more than 400 in less than 10 minutes.

Prior to the shooting, the ATF had not classified bump stocks as illegal, but the shooting prompted a re-evaluation of how the devices work, and the agency ultimately banned them as illegal because a single pull of the finger causes the firing of multiple rounds; the ATF said the devices converted legal guns, like the semi-automatic AR-15, into illegal machine guns.

The rule went into effect in 2019 after the Supreme Court declined to block it. But in January of this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 13-to-3 vote ruled that the classification was illegal.

The court's decision to review the rule, despite its 2019 ruling leaving it in place, comes 16 months after the high court's conservative majority issued a sweeping, and path-breaking decision on gun rights. It also came after both the government and gun rights groups urged the court to hear the case.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.