Ken Paxton wants to end a Trump-era ban on firearm bump stocks

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An August press release from Paxton's office said he is protecting the Second Amendment from President Biden, but Biden didn't create the ban.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is seeking to end a ban on bump stocks, a type of gun attachment that allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire at the speed of a machine gun, arguing that the ban infringes on citizens' Fifth Amendment rights.

The ban, prompted by the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded over 850 others, forced bump stock owners to return the devices to the nearest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives office.

In August, Paxton announced that he had signed on to a multistate amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to take up a case on the constitutionality of the bump stock ban.

The brief argues the ban violates both Fifth Amendment protection from the government seizing property for "public use" without "just compensation" and the Second Amendment's protection of the right to "keep and bear arms."

"Suddenly criminalizing them [bump stocks] obviously implicates Americans' Second Amendment rights," the brief asserts, adding, "The ATF Rule impairs another fundamental right, too — the bedrock right not to lose property without just compensation."

A press release issued by Paxton's office on Aug. 8 said the bump stock ban is an "unconstitutional rule" that turned "law-abiding gun owners" into "criminals," lamenting that the law forced them to "destroy or relinquish lawfully acquired property."

The press release claimed that the coalition of more than a dozen attorneys generals is protecting the "Second Amendment from [the] Biden administration." But President Joe Biden didn't create the ban.

It was former President Donald Trump who implemented the ban, which went into effect in 2019.

"A bump stock, you shoot rapidly but not accurately," Trump said when he directed the Department of Justice to create the ban after the 2018 mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. "The bullets come out fast, but you don't know where the hell they're going. That's why nobody even really, too much, came to its defense. He [Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock] used it in Las Vegas. He was using bump stocks in Las Vegas, as you know. So, I'm getting rid of them."

After the Las Vegas mass shooting, even the National Rifle Association and some GOP lawmakers supported regulations on bump stocks.

"The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations," NRA leaders Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox said at the time.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has since retired from Congress, supported regulation.

"Fully automatic weapons have been banned a long time; apparently this allows you to take a semi-automatic, turn it into an automatic, so clearly that's something we need to look into," Paul told MSNBC in 2017.

Paxton is fighting to loosen gun laws even in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which an 18-year-old gunman in June killed 19 students and two teachers with a semi-automatic rifle.

The shooting spurred action in Congress, which a few weeks after the shooting passed new gun safety laws for the first time in three decades.

The new gun safety law expands background checks on gun purchasers between the ages of 18 and 21. It also incentivizes states to pass so-called "red flag" laws that allow law enforcement to take guns from those who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. And it prevents people convicted of abusing someone they dated from owning guns. Previously, only spouses or former spouses were covered under that law.

Ultimately, it's unclear whether the Supreme Court will take up the challenge to the bump stock ban, but the court has refused to hear challenges to the ban multiple times in the past.

In 2019, the court rejected a temporary stay on the ban; on Oct. 3 of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear two other challenges to the ban.

Published with permission of The American Independent.