Virginia Citizens Defense League president on why he supports Supreme Court’s reversal of bump stock ban

The Supreme Court struck down a Trump-era ban on bump stocks Friday, ruling that the administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives overstepped its authority when it outlawed the gun accessory.

Bump stocks replace a rifle’s stock and harness the gun’s recoil energy, allowing the trigger to bump against the shooter’s stationary finger. Equipped with bump stocks, guns can fire at a speed similar to that of an automatic weapon.

The initial ban came down after a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern U.S. history. The gunman, who used semiautomatic rifles fitted with bump stocks, fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd in 11 minutes.

Philip Van Cleave, gun rights advocate and president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, joined WTOP’s Nick Iannelli on Saturday to express his support for the court’s decision to reverse the ban.

“It’s not that we love bump stocks — they’re OK, you know? But the idea was that the BHGS overstepped their legal bounds,” Van Cleave said. “They were making law and that could not be tolerated. Congress makes law, not these agencies, so that’s why we sued them over this — for that very reason that they’ve overstepped their bounds.”

In the 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court found that the Justice Department was wrong to declare that bump stocks transformed semiautomatic rifles into illegal machine guns.

The justice wrote that each trigger depression in rapid succession still only releases one shot and therefore do not transform rifles.

After the decision, President Joe Biden said that he will be working to get the ban reinstated.

“Notwithstanding this decision, my Administration will continue to take action,” Biden said in a statement. “We know thoughts and prayers are not enough. I call on Congress to ban bump stocks, pass an assault weapon ban, and take additional action to save lives – send me a bill and I will sign it immediately.”

The 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas was carried out by a high-stakes gambler who turned the gun on himself after the massacre, leaving his exact motive a mystery. A total of 60 people were killed in the shooting.

The family of Christiana Duarte, who was killed in the Las Vegas shooting, said that this was a step backwards for gun safety.

“The ruling is really just another way of inviting people to have another mass shooting,” Danette Meyers, a family friend and spokesperson, told the Associated Press. “It’s unfortunate that they have to relive this again. They’re really unhappy.”

Van Cleave said he believes that bump stocks do not make the guns more dangerous, nor more likely to be used for a mass shooting.

“The gun’s trigger works exactly the same as it always did. All this does is it harnesses the recoil of the gun to help you pull that trigger quicker,” Van Cleave said. “I can do the same exact thing without a bump stock. It’s a matter of how you hold the gun.”

In a statement on Friday, Republican Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, the former county sheriff in Las Vegas said he doesn’t believe that the ban was a step in the right direction.

“While I have always been a supporter of the Second Amendment, I have been a vocal opponent of bump stocks since my time in law enforcement, and I’m disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision today,” Lombardo said.

Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave tells WTOP's Nick Iannelli why he supports the Supreme Court's reversal of the Trump administration's bump stock ban

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up