A legal challenge to the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks — devices attached to semiautomatic firearms so that a shooter can fire multiple rounds more rapidly — was revived Thursday by a federal appeals court.
A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans had upheld the ban in December, affirming a ruling by a Texas-based federal judge. But an order issued Thursday stated that a majority of the 17-member court had voted to rehear the case. The challenge was brought by a Texas gun owner and is backed by gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association.
The 5th Circuit covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Three other circuit appeals courts have so far rejected challenges to the ban. The Supreme Court has been asked to take up the issue but had not said whether it will do so as of Thursday.
The ban was instituted in 2019 after a sniper in Las Vegas used bump stock-equipped weapons in the massacre of dozens of concertgoers in 2017.
The 5th Circuit order came on the same day that the Supreme Court issued a ruling expanding gun rights, striking down a New York law and ruling that Americans have a Second Amendment right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
At issue in the bump stock challenge was not the Second Amendment but whether bump stocks qualify as illegal “machine guns” under federal law. The rule banning the devices issued by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that they are.
According to the ATF, bump stocks harness the recoil energy of a semiautomatic firearm so that a trigger “resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.”
Opponents of the ATF rule argue that the trigger itself functions multiple times when a bump stock is used and that, therefore, they do not qualify as automatic weapons.