NRA has interesting take on bump stock decision

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Recently, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge on the ATF’s bump stock ban. The media touted this as a huge win for “gun safety,” even though precisely one crime has ever been carried out with the devices so far as I’ve been able to find.


It was a horrific crime, to be sure, but still just a single instance.

Regardless, the ATF swooped in under the direction of President Trump and changed their earlier decision, declaring bump stocks were machine guns.

And that sparked a challenge, which SCOTUS declined to hear.

For me, including myself, this was a big setback. Yet, was it?

The NRA has an interesting take on the ruling.

They first note that denying cert isn’t the same as declaring the bump stock ban won on the merits of the case. They just declined to hear the case.

But there may be a good reason for that.

At present, another bump-stock case, Cargill v. Garland, is making its way through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In December 2021 the Fifth Circuit upheld the ATF rule in this case. However, following a petition by the plaintiff, in June the Fifth Circuit agreed to hear the case en banc (in front of the full court, rather than just a panel of circuit court judges).

Could the Supreme Court be waiting on the Fifth Circuit to rule en banc before entertaining a bump-stock case? That is a distinct possibility. What isn’t is that the Supreme Court has made a ruling on the merits of these important cases. Reporters should know better.

Now, that’s an interesting point of view, and it actually makes sense.

The Supreme Court often prefers for there to be conflicting rulings at the lower court level before they hear a case. The idea is that they’re cleaning up the confusion but allowing the lower courts to handle as many issues as they can.


When two different courts find two different directions, they tend to step in and un-muddy the waters.

Could that be happening here?

Also, this is post-Bruen. The Fifth Circuit will have to review the case through the text and history standard laid out by SCOTUS with regard to that bump stock ban, something the previous case didn’t have. It may be that the Court is hoping that their previous ruling will change the landscape sufficiently so they don’t have to step in again.

As I said, the NRA’s take makes a lot of sense.

Now, is it ideal from a gun rights point of view? No, it’s not. But the Supreme Court doesn’t exist just to make our lives better. It deals with a lot of issues and only has a finite amount of resources for the myriad of cases that come before it. That means they have to make decisions that we might not like.

But if that decision is also based on an understanding that lower courts may do certain things now that they wouldn’t have before, I think most of us can live with it.

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