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Supreme Court rejects effort to stop Trump's ban on rapid-fire bump stocks

The devices, which figured prominently in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people, were outlawed as of Tuesday.
Image: A bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at store and gun range in South Jordan, Utah, on Oct. 4, 2017.
A bump stock is attached to a semiautomatic rifle at a gun range in South Jordan, Utah, on Oct. 4, 2017.Rick Bowmer / AP file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined Thursday to take up an appeal challenging a federal ban on bump stocks that went into effect Tuesday.

After the Trump administration outlawed the devices — which allow rifles to be fired rapidly — owners, dealers and manufacturers were required to destroy them by midnight Monday or turn them into a local office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Federal authorities estimated that half a million were sold in the United States.

Bump stocks figured prominently in the 2017 mass shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded 500 others. Of 22 semiautomatic rifles in the hotel room used by the gunman, 14 were equipped with bump stocks, prompting President Donald Trump to push for a ban.

Gun rights groups filed two separate Supreme Court appeals. One, directed to Chief Justice John Roberts, was rejected Tuesday. A second, filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was turned down Thursday after she referred it to the full court. In both decisions, the court gave no explanation, following its usual procedure.

A lawsuit challenging the ban remains before a federal court in Washington. The two Supreme Court appeals sought a temporary halt to the ban while the lower court case was pending.

Once attached to a rifle in place of the normal stock or end piece, bump stocks allow rounds to be fired in quick succession, almost as fast as an automatic weapon. The Trump administration concluded that they violated a federal law banning machine guns, defined as weapons that automatically fire more than one shot "with a single function of the trigger."

An ATF spokesman declined Thursday to say how many bump stocks were surrendered before the ban went into effect, adding that the agency "does not feel the number turned in is an accurate depiction, because there were alternative methods of disposal." However, local ATF offices around the country said very few were turned in.

An exception was in the state of Washington, where 1,000 were turned over to the state patrol. Each person surrendering a bump stock received $150 under a state buyback program.