Supreme Court bump stock ruling won't impact CT ban

Connecticut's law will stand because the case was not a broader Second Amendment challenge. Instead, it focused on the federal government's administrative actions.

John Craven and Associated Press

Jun 14, 2024, 9:05 PM

Updated 36 days ago


The Supreme Court on Friday struck down a national ban on bump stocks – the rapid-fire gun accessories used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history – in a ruling that threw firearms back into the nation's political spotlight.
The ruling will not impact Connecticut's ban, but the state attorney general said it could lead to new legal challenges.
Bump stocks are attachments that allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire rapidly. They replace a rifle's stock, the part that rests against the shoulder. Invented in the 2000s, bump stocks harness the gun's recoil energy so that the trigger bumps against the shooter's stationary finger, allowing the gun to fire at a similar speed as an automatic weapon.
Bump stocks' power became clear in 2017, when a gunman used them in a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas. The massacre killed 60 concertgoers and injured hundreds more.
Public backlash led the Trump administration to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns, which are illegal. But in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that bump stocks are not machine guns – and therefore, are legal under federal law.
"A semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a 'machine gun' because it cannot fire more than one shot 'by a single function of the trigger,'" wrote conservative Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion.
But liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the differences are semantic.
"When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck," she wrote in a dissenting opinion.
Connecticut banned bump stocks several months after the Las Vegas mass shooting. Possessing a bump stock can land you five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Attorney General William Tong, who authored the law as a state legislator, said Friday's Supreme Court ruling does not impact the state-level ban.
"No impact on Connecticut. This is limited to the federal bump stock ban," said Tong. "This decision by the Supreme Court relates to the federal ban, and it really relates to how a ''machine gun' is defined under federal statute."
Connecticut's law will stand because the case was not a broader Second Amendment challenge. Instead, it focused on the federal government's administrative actions.
But Tong said the decision could lead to new legal challenges.
"I won't be surprised by any effort by gun rights groups – and gun rights groups and activists from outside of Connecticut – who want to come in and try to overturn Connecticut's gun laws," he said. "But I'm ready for them."
The state's largest gun rights group criticized Tong's reaction. In a statement, Connecticut Citizens Defense League president Holly Sullivan said:
"Attorney General Tong referred to bump stocks earlier today 'however you define them.' This flippant disregard of accuracy in drafting and enforcing laws banning firearms and firearm accessories raises critical questions regarding what items are and are not banned in Connecticut. Governor Lamont also stated that bump stocks turn firearms into automatic weapons. This is entirely untrue as clearly explained in the Supreme Court's 42 page ruling. If the people of Connecticut want a real conversation about firearm policies aimed at actually curbing violence, ideological anti-gun politicians must stop misnomering commonly-owned civilian firearms and misrepresenting easily ascertainable facts, as they are wont to do in this state. SCOTUS has made it clear that our government should start being honest with the public about what firearms and their various parts and accessories do, and what they do not do. AG Tong and the Governor would be wise to listen."
In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is also expected to rule in another gun case, challenging a federal law intended to keep guns away from people under domestic violence restraining orders.
Meantime, Gov. Ned Lamont worries that Friday's ruling could mean a flood of bump stocks from other states, where they are now legal.
"We're a small state. The borders are wide open," he said on Friday. "Guns cross all the time; makes our towns a lot more dangerous."

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