Joins coalition of 23 AGs in defending bump stock rule issued after 2017 Las Vegas massacre
December 27, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 23 attorneys general in urging the Supreme Court to uphold a federal rule banning bump stocks, devices that effectively convert semiautomatic firearms into illegal automatic weapons. In an amicus brief filed in Garland v. Cargill, the coalition urges the Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court’s decision striking down a 2018 regulation that clarified that the federal law banning machine guns also bans bump stock-type devices. Attorney General Ellison and the coalition assert that the rule aligns with longstanding policies prohibiting automatic weapons and argue that overturning it would pose a threat to public safety and the safety of law enforcement officers.
“The facts are clear: bump stocks are a threat to the safety of all Minnesotans and Americans everywhere, and the rule that bans them is simply common sense,” said Attorney General Ellison. “I’m asking the Supreme Court to uphold the rule because the last thing Minnesotans want is to make it easier for dangerous people to get their hands on even more lethal firearms."
Federal law has strictly regulated fully automatic, military-grade weapons since 1934 and has banned civilian ownership of new automatic weapons since 1986. Bump stocks — devices that allow a user to fire multiple rounds in seconds with just one pull of a trigger — were created to evade federal regulations and are marketed as workarounds to the ban on automatic weapons. In 2017, the dangers of bump stocks became tragically clear when a man using weapons fitted with bump stocks murdered 58 people in Las Vegas. In response to that massacre, the Trump administration issued a regulation clarifying that a 1986 law making it a crime to own a machine gun also applies to bump stocks.
The 2018 regulation banning bump stocks has faced multiple court challenges, with three federal circuit courts of appeal declining to invalidate it. In a challenge before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a three-judge panel of the court also initially upheld the rule. However, the full Fifth Circuit sitting en banc reversed the panel’s decision, ruling that the law banning machine guns did not unambiguously encompass bump stocks and therefore could not be applied against bump stock owners. The case is now before the Supreme Court.
In the amicus brief, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition are urging the Supreme Court to uphold the 2018 rule, asserting that the federal law banning automatic weapons clearly includes bump stocks. They argue that overturning the rule would undermine the nearly century-long effort to restrict civilian use of machine guns and would endanger both the public and law enforcement officers. Additionally, they highlight that at least 18 jurisdictions have banned or regulated bump stocks, emphasizing that the 2018 rule is critical to fill gaps in state-by-state regulation of these extremely dangerous devices.
Joining Attorney General Ellison in the brief are District of Columbia Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb, who led the coalition, and the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.