Attorney General Bonta Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Federal Bump Stock Ban

Wednesday, December 27, 2023
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OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as part of a coalition of 22 attorneys general, filed a brief today in the United States Supreme Court in support of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF) federal regulation that bans bump-stock devices and classifies them as prohibited machine guns under the National Firearms Act. In the case of Garland v. Cargill, the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit panel agreed with ATF that a federal statute prohibiting machine-guns fairly encompasses bump stocks, but the en banc court reversed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on November 3.

“It is very clear that bump stocks  readily convert semiautomatic firearms into machine guns, making them illegal under federal law,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The federal government has long regulated automatic weapons and federal laws that apply on a nationwide basis serve as an important complement to State firearms laws that protect our residents and communities from gun violence. The bump stock regulation fits squarely within the text of the federal law banning machine guns, and a centuries-long effort to keep automatic weapons off the streets and out of California.”

In 2017, a gunman opened fire at a music festival in Las Vegas using semi-automatic rifles equipped with bump-stock devices, killing 60 people and wounding 500 more. In the wake of the shooting, ATF issued its final rule concluding that bump stocks qualify as machine guns under a federal statute that prohibits machine guns. Bump stocks are an accessory that can be added to a semiautomatic long gun and enable users to mimic automatic fire by pulling their trigger finger just once to maintain a stream of gunfire. 

Machine guns became commercially available to civilians in the 1920s and their ability to rapidly fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull provoked regulatory scrutiny. States and the federal government promptly responded by restricting machine guns. In the 1980s, Congress responded decisively, passing legislation to make clear that any device designed to simulate fully automatic fire is a machine gun that is prohibited under federal law.

The brief argues that the ban of bump stocks is consistent with the text of the federal statute prohibiting machine guns, as well as a long history of federal and state laws restricting machine guns. The brief argues that the federal regulation banning bump stocks vindicates the purposes of federal firearms law by complementing state efforts to regulate dangerous weapons, by supporting the states that have already banned them, and by filling in the gaps of state-by-state regulations.

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners throughout the state and nationally to continue tackling the issue of gun violence strategically and aggressively by:

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia in filing the brief.

A copy of the brief can be found here.


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