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Varghese Summersett
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Introduction

On June 14, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a significant decision in the case of Garland v. Cargill, striking down the federal ban on bump stocks. The Supreme Court bump stock decision, coming in at a 6-3 ruling, marked a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over firearm regulations in the United States.

Background of the Case

Bump stocks are attachments that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire at speeds comparable to automatic weapons, releasing hundreds of rounds per minute. The national debate over these devices intensified after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, where a gunman used bump stocks to perpetrate the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, resulting in 60 deaths and over 500 injuries. In response, the Trump administration in 2018 reclassified bump stocks as machine guns, mandating their destruction or surrender to the ATF—a reversal from earlier interpretations that did not uniformly classify bump stocks as machine guns.

The Case

Michael Cargill, a U.S. Army veteran and Austin gun store owner, became a central figure in challenging this rule after surrendering two bump stocks. His lawsuit, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit supported, led to the Supreme Court’s review. The Supreme Court’s decision, affirming the 5th Circuit, concluded that the ATF’s 2018 rule overstepped its authority under federal law.

Details of the Supreme Court’s Ruling

The Supreme Court ruled that the ATF exceeded its statutory authority by classifying bump stocks as machine guns. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, argued that bump stocks do not make a semi-automatic rifle fire automatically as defined by law since the trigger must function separately for each round fired, contrary to the continuous firing mechanism of machine guns.

Dissenting Opinion

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, penned a forceful dissent. She argued that the majority’s interpretation dangerously narrows the definition of machine guns and disregards the practical realities of how bump stocks enable rapid, continuous fire. Justice Sotomayor warned that this decision could lead to “deadly consequences,” echoing concerns about potential increases in mass shootings facilitated by such devices.

Implications of the Decision

This ruling significantly impacts the regulatory landscape:

  • The decision lifts the federal ban on bump stocks in 35 states that do not have their own corresponding laws, potentially leading to a resurgence in their use.
  • At least 15 states along with the District of Columbia maintain their bans, which will likely remain in force.

Public and Political Reaction

The decision has been met with substantial criticism from gun control advocates who warn of the potential increase in mass shootings facilitated by such devices. In response, there are calls for Congress to enact legislation specifically banning bump stocks.

Are Bump Stocks Legal in Texas?

Bump stocks are legal in Texas. Although there was significant national discussion about banning these devices following the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Texas has not passed any state-specific legislation banning the possession, sale, or use of bump stocks.  Like any state without any state law specifically prohibiting them, bump stocks remain legal in Texas.

States Where Bump Stocks Are Illegal

State Legal Status Statute
California Illegal Penal Code Section 30600
Colorado Illegal HB19-1177
Connecticut Illegal Section 53-202w
Delaware Illegal Title 11, Chapter 5
Florida Illegal SB 7026
Hawaii Illegal HRS 134-8
Maryland Illegal Criminal Law Section 4-301
Massachusetts Illegal Chapter 140, Section 121
Nevada Illegal NRS 202.360
New Jersey Illegal PL 2018, c.39
New York Illegal Penal Law 265.01
Rhode Island Illegal Title 11-47-8.1
Vermont Illegal Title 13, Section 4011
Washington Illegal RCW 9.41.190
District of Columbia Illegal DC Code § 7-2502.02

Conclusion

Garland v. Cargill is not just a legal determination about a specific firearm accessory but a landmark case with wide-reaching implications on how firearms are regulated in the United States. It reflects the broader societal and political conflicts surrounding gun control and the scope of regulatory authority, ensuring that this topic will remain at the forefront of legal and political discourse. In the upcoming terms, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to tackle several significant cases related to gun rights, which will likely influence the legal landscape around firearm regulations. One such pivotal case involves the regulation of so-called “ghost guns”—firearms that can be assembled from parts and do not have serial numbers. This case, expected to be argued in October, will address the Biden administration’s efforts to regulate these untraceable weapons. Additionally, the Court’s future docket includes a review of laws surrounding gun storage and public carry restrictions, reflecting the ongoing national debate on how to balance Second Amendment rights with public safety concerns.

Garland v. Cargill Full Opinion

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
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