This is “the bump stock” ban case. It has been kicking around for a while.

In October 2017, there was a mass casuality event in Las Vagas, Nevada. 58 people were killed and over 500 were wounded.

When the police breached the room they believed the shots were coming from, they found a corpse, IIRC. I don’t believe the cops shot him.

They found a number of weapons, some of which were AR15 style semi-automatic rifles. They found magazines and at least one of the rifles was equiped with a bump stock.

President Trump, looking at the make up and the will of the congress told the ATF to ban bump stocks.

One version says that Trump is a traitor to the Second Amendment for doing this. Another says that Trump was playing 5D chess and kept congress from acting.

The ATF promligated a new regulation where they redefined “machinegun” to include semi-automatic firearms equiped with bump stocks as machineguns, and demanded that all owners of bump stocks turn them in within 90 days or face charges.

Mr. Cargill turned over 2 bump stocks to the ATF, under protest, then filed suit challenging the final rule as being in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

This is NOT a Second Amendment challenge. This is an Administrative Act challenge. It is a claim that the ATF did not have the authority to exerciese its power the way that they did. The ATF can not change laws nor can they make laws.

The district court found for the ATF. A merits panel of the Fifth Circuit court afrimed. The case was then heard en banc where the Fifth Circuit reversed the merits panel. Note that this was a weak finding.

The Fifth Circuit en banc found that under the rule of lenity, the plaintiff, the good guy, wins.

The rule of lenity is that when the law is ambiguous, The People win.

This means that the case was appealed to the Supreme Court which granted cert and issued their opinion today.

So what did the Supreme Court actually say?

Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the court. He answered the question put to them. Did the ATF exceed its statutory authority? The Supreme Court said they had.

With this, the ATFs rule is gone. Does this mean that we can now own bump stocks? The answer is a strong “maybe”.

If your state has banned bump stocks, those laws are still good. This opinion only affects the ATF’s Rule. It was found that the ATF did not have the authority to redifine the meaning of “machinegun.”

Even if your state’s government waved the magic pen and banned bump stocks, those bans have to be fought in court. This case is not even good case law for a state level executive ban.

This case is even weaker as case law IF your state’s legislature passed bills that were signed into law banning bump stocks.

On the good news side, Justice Thomas does a great job of describing the trigger group of an AR-15. This makes it absolutely clear that an AR-15 is a semi-automatic firearm. This can be used to slap down the Woods and Easterbrooks of the country that find that AR-15’s aren’t even arms protected by the Second Amendment.

This is why I like originalist Justices. Justice Alito concurered. He wrote that he was agreeing with the majority because that is what the law said. He then goes on to say that if the Congress that defined what a machinegun was knew about devices like bump stocks, they would have considered a bump stock to be a machinegun.

But he says very clearly:

There is a simple remedy for the disparate treatment of bump stocks and machineguns. Congress can amend the law—and perhaps would have done so already if ATF had stuck with its earlier interpretation. Now that the situation is clear, Congress can act.
Opinion, Garland v. Cargill, No. 22-976 (U.S. Jun. 14, 2024) Justice Alito, concurring.

But the biggest take away comes not from the majority opinion, but from the minority dissent.

On October 1, 2017, a shooter opened fire from a hotel room overlooking an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, in what would become the deadliest mass shooting in U. S. history. Within a matter of minutes, using several hundred rounds of ammunition, the shooter killed 58 people and wounded over 500. He did so by affixing bump stocks to commonly available, semiautomatic rifles. These simple devices harness a rifle’s recoil energy to slide the rifle back and forth and repeatedly “bump” the shooter’s stationary trigger finger, creating rapid fire. All the shooter had to do was pull the trigger and press the gun forward. The bump stock did the rest.
id. Justice Sotomayer, dissenting

The dissent gives us “in common use” for semiautomatic rifles and implicitly says that AR-15s are not M-16s

Not a Second Amendment win, but a win for The People.

Spread the love

By awa

One thought on “Cargill v. Garland, what does it mean?”
  1. It’s still a win because it reins in the ATF by establishing precedent that they have to follow process. This also helps the pistol brace case and long term Chevron deference needs to be overturned.

Comments are closed.