A U.S. appeals court on Friday struck down a Trump administration rule banning bump stocks, which are devices that allow people to rapidly fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic guns.
In a 13-3 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said that despite “tremendous” public pressure to impose a ban, it was up to the U.S. Congress rather than the president to take action.
Circuit Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod also said for the majority that federal gun control laws did not unambiguously prohibit the devices, or give “fair warning that possession of a non-mechanical bump stock is a crime.”
One of the dissenting judges, Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson, wrote that the majority employed reasoning “to legalize an instrument of mass murder.”
Three other federal appeals courts have rejected challenges to the ban, and Friday’s decision raises the prospect that the U.S. Supreme Court could eventually decide the issue.
That court in October declined to hear appeals from two of the earlier decisions.
A bump stock lets a gun’s stock, which rests against the shoulder, slide backward and forward, letting users take advantage of the gun’s recoil to fire rapidly.
Though gun restrictions are often championed by Democrats, Trump’s Republican administration imposed the ban on bump stocks after a gunman used them in killing 58 people at an October 2017 country music concert in Las Vegas.
The Biden administration also supports the ban, which took effect in 2019 and is enforced by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In December 2021, a three-judge 5th Circuit panel had upheld the ban and ruled against Michael Cargill, a Texas gun owner who opposed it.
Friday’s decision reversed that ruling. Most of the judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents, while the dissenting judges were appointed by Democratic presidents.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cargill’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a similar request.
The case is Cargill v. Garland, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-51016.