Court Upholds Maryland’s Ban on Rapid Fire Gun Bump Stocks

July 6, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
A Slide Fire Solutions bump fire stock on a WASR-10 semiautomatic rifle (Photo by WASR via Wikipedia Commons)

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan won a judgment this week against gun rights advocates who wanted to overturn the state’s ban on bump stocks and other attachments.

Bump stocks speed up the firing rate on semi-automatic weapons, turning them into the equivalent of machine guns.

The gun rights group Maryland Shall Issue Inc. said in a class action lawsuit that Maryland’s ban violates the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on government takings of private property without compensation.

The law, SB-707, makes it unlawful for any person to “manufacture, possess, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase or receive a rapid fire trigger activator” or to “transport” such a device into the state.

The Maryland General Assembly and Hogan approved the bump stock ban after the October 2017 attack by gunman Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas. He killed 58 people while firing at concert-goers from a hotel room window.

The majority opinion written by U.S. Fourth Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker says Maryland’s ban does not require bump stock owners to turn them over to the government. As a result, there is no violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause.

Instead, the law requires the owners to dispossess themselves of the bump stocks and attachments or face fines up to $5,000 and three years in prison.

The gun owners assumed the risk regulations would change in a way they dislike when they decided to purchase guns, the court ruled.

“Though SB-707 may make the personal property economically worthless, owners are aware of th[at] possibility in areas where the state has a traditionally high degree of control,” the ruling said.

The government acts within its rights to regulate for the common good, the court said.

“We can think of few types of personal property that are more heavily regulated than the types of devices that are prohibited by SB-707,” the ruling said.

Maryland Shall Issue officials said they are likely to appeal. They describe their organization on their website as “an all volunteer, non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of gun owners’ rights in Maryland.”

The Maryland law is similar to a national ban on bump stocks imposed by President Donald Trump under an executive order in 2018 after the Las Vegas shooting. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the ban.

The court ruling this week is consistent with previous rulings in Maryland and nationwide.

In November 2018, U.S. District Judge James Bredar ruled SB-707 “falls well within Maryland’s traditional police power to define and ban ultra-hazardous contraband.”

The gun rights advocates had argued the state had no right to redefine “contraband” to make gun attachments illegal. Bredar called the argument “absurd.”

“Under such an approach, public safety regulations would be permanently frozen in the past and states would be inhibited from addressing new threats to the public, no matter how grave,” Bredar wrote.

Before the 2018 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks were largely unregulated.

That changed after Oct. 1, 2017, when Stephen Craig Paddock carried a small arsenal of guns and ammunition into his hotel room in an upper level of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. He broke open a window and fired more than 1,000 rounds into a crowd of about 22,000 concert-goers at a country music festival on the Las Vegas strip.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. In addition to killing 58 people, another 413 were injured by gunfire.

As police closed in, Paddock shot himself in his hotel room, becoming the 59th fatality.

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