Supreme Court decision: What is a bump stock, how does it work?

The bump stock was banned after a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

The Supreme Court on Friday struck down a ban on bump stocks that was enacted by the Trump administration after a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas where 59 people were killed.

By a vote of 6 to 3, the court ruled that the Trump administration had exceeded its power when it banned the device, an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire at a high rate of speed.

The ruling came out of a decision to ban bump stocks made by the Trump administration following a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 that saw Stephen Paddock fire at people attending the Highway 91 Harvest Country Music Festival.

Paddock opened fire on people in an area some 400 yards away from his hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel located on the Las Vegas Strip.

Police told The Associated Press at the time that they found 12 bump stocks when they searched Paddock’s room. The gunman fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd in 11 minutes.

What is a bump stock, how does it work and what happens with them now? Here’s a look at the device:

What is a bump stock?

A bump stock replaces the weapon’s gunstock (the part of a rifle to which the barrel and firing mechanism are attached). The bump stock has a “support step” that covers the trigger opening.

How does it work?

The bump stock works when the shooter holds the pistol grip with one hand and the barrel of the gun with the other. A support step holds a person’s finger in place when the gun is fired.

A spring mechanism in a bump stock causes the rifle to bounce forward with every shot. The recoil of the gun pushes it back “bumping” the shooter’s finger and causing it to continuously push on the trigger, potentially allowing the weapon to fire in a rapid sequence.

What does the Supreme Court’s decision mean?

Until the Trump administration enacted its ban, bump stocks were considered legal because the speed of the firing was due to the sliding of the stock back and forth to rapidly pull the trigger, not by “a single function of the trigger” which is the federal government’s definition of a machine gun.

Congress outlawed machine guns in 1934, defining them as “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

The Gun Control Act of 1968 extended that definition to include parts that can be used to convert a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one.

The majority opinion found that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives exceeded its statutory authority by issuing a rule that banned bump stocks because the ATF classified them as machine guns.

What is the difference between a machine gun and a semi-automatic weapon?

Semi-automatic weapons are relatively easy to purchase. They are defined as firearms capable of shooting only one round per trigger pull. Semi-automatic firearms include most rifles and pistols and a significant number of shotguns.

However, the only automatic weapons legal for civilians to purchase in the United States are the ones that have been registered between 1934 and 1986.

According to the ATF, an automatic weapon is considered a machine gun, and no new machine guns can be made or sold to civilians.

Automatic weapons have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934. Taking possession of such weapons requires paying a federal transfer tax, filling out an application to register the weapon, submitting passport photos, getting your chief law enforcement official to sign your application and submitting to an FBI background and fingerprint check.

Machine guns are hard to come by and are generally pretty expensive.

If you are caught buying such a weapon while skipping the above requirements, you can expect to be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine.

While a semi-automatic weapon can be converted into an automatic weapon with different devices, or by altering the gun in certain ways, federal regulations make it illegal to use conversion devices that can bypass a semi-automatic weapon’s trigger mechanism.

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