TRENTON — The state attorney general on Friday decried the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down a Trump-era ban on a gun accessory that effectively transforms semiautomatic firearms into machine guns.

"As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I condemn today’s Supreme Court’s decision holding that bump stocks, which convert semiautomatic rifles into machine guns, are not federally regulated," Attorney General Matthew Platkin said.

Bump stocks remain illegal in New Jersey as well as in 14 other states and the District of Columbia.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ban on bump stocks had been in place since President Donald Trump's urging following the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 60 concertgoers and injured 500 more in just 11 minutes, as well as the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that killed 17.

Supreme Court Guns Bump Stocks
A bump stock (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

In a 6-3 decision split on ideological lines, the court ruled that hat the Trump administration did not follow federal law banning machine guns because the bump stock doesn't make a semiautomatic weapon a machine gun. Justice Samuel Alito said Congress could still pass a law explicitly banning bump stocks.

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor referenced the Las Vegas killer and common sense.

“In murdering so many people so quickly, he did not rely on a quick trigger finger. Instead, he relied on bump stocks,” she said.

Las Vegas Shooting
Aftermath of Mandalay Bay resort and casino shooting in 2017. (AP Photo file)

Platkin said the Supreme Court ruling would have "no impact on our law, which I will continue to enforce to the fullest extent."

"There is no valid reason for any law-abiding citizen to own a device capable of causing extreme bloodshed," the Democrat said.

"Here we are halfway through the year, and across the country, there have already been more than 200 mass shootings, and more than 14,000 people have been the victims of gun violence. The horrifying consequences of this ruling will be felt for decades to come."

Las Vegas Shooting Lawsuit
This Oct. 2017 file photo released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Force Investigation Team Report shows a number of guns in the interior of mass shooter Stephen Paddock's 32nd floor room of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

Courts split on challenge to bump stock regulation

— The Associated Press

The ruling came after a Texas gun shop owner challenged the ban, arguing the Justice Department wrongly classified the accessories as illegal machine guns.

The Biden administration said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives made the right choice for the gun accessories, which can allow weapons to fire at a rate of hundreds of rounds a minute.

It marked the latest gun case to come before the high court. A conservative supermajority handed down a landmark decision expanding gun rights in 2022 and is weighing another gun case challenging a federal law intended to keep guns away from people under domestic violence restraining orders.

The arguments in the bump stock case, though, were more about whether the ATF had overstepped its authority than the Second Amendment.

Justices from the court’s liberal wing suggested it was “common sense” that anything capable of unleashing a “torrent of bullets” was a machine gun under federal law. Conservative justices, though, raised questions about why Congress had not acted to ban bump stocks, as well as the effects of the ATF changing its mind a decade after declaring the accessories legal.

The high court took up the case after a split among lower courts over bump stocks, which were invented in the early 2000s. Under Republican President George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama, the ATF decided that bump stocks didn’t transform semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. The agency reversed those decisions at Trump’s urging after the shooting in Las Vegas and another mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead.

Bump stocks are accessories that replace a rifle’s stock, the part that rests against the shoulder. They harness the gun’s recoil energy so that the trigger bumps against the shooter’s stationary finger, allowing the gun to fire at a rate comparable to a traditional machine gun. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have their own bans on bump stocks.

The plaintiff, Texas gun shop owner and military veteran Michael Cargill, was represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a group funded by conservative donors like the Koch network. His attorneys acknowledged that bump stocks allow for rapid fire but argued that they are different because the shooter has to put in more effort to keep the gun firing.

Government lawyers countered the effort required from the shooter is small and doesn’t make a legal difference. The Justice Department said the ATF changed its mind on bump stocks after doing a more in-depth examination spurred by the Las Vegas shooting and came to the right conclusion.

There were about 520,000 bump stocks in circulation when the ban went into effect in 2019, requiring people to either surrender or destroy them, at a combined estimated loss of $100 million, the plaintiffs said in court documents.

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission)

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