(CNN) — The Justice Department on Friday asked the Supreme Court to take up an appeals court ruling that struck down a Trump-era federal ban on so-called bump stocks.
The request comes as the high court has repeatedly declined to disturb those rulings that favor the restriction on the device, including not considering a challenge to the federal ban in October. Bump stocks are attachments that essentially allow shooters to fire semiautomatic rifles continuously with one pull of the trigger.
“Like other machineguns, rifles modified with bump stocks are exceedingly dangerous; Congress prohibited the possession of such weapons for good reason.” US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in the new filing with the Supreme Court. “The decision below contradicts the best interpretation of the statute, creates an acknowledged circuit conflict, and threatens significant harm to public safety.”
The January appellate court ruling concluded that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF, did not have the authority to classify the devices as machine guns, a classification that had effectively banned them. But in the new filing, the Justice Department argued that prior to the ruling, three other appeals courts had upheld the bump stock regulation.
In 2018, the ATF classified the devices as machine guns under the National Firearms Act after then-President Donald Trump ordered a review of bump stocks — which were used in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting a few months prior.
But the appellate majority in January argued that bump stocks were not covered by the law.
“A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of ‘machinegun’ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote in the majority’s opinion.
In 2010, the ATF had determined that bump stocks were merely accessories, or firearms parts — and therefore not regulated as a firearm.
But following the Las Vegas shooting that killed over 50 people and injured hundreds, the Justice Department said that the “devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger,” similar to automatic rifles.