Meet the new boss; as deadly as the old boss.

The Washington Post recently reported that the United States Supreme Court conservative majority led by Justice Clarence Thomas has given shooters the right to use a device called a bump stock that allows firearms to function as machine guns.  In the June 14, 2024 Supreme Court decision in Garland v Cargill, the conservative majority ruled that a bump stock does not qualify as a machine gun, even though a bump stock enables a firearm to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute.

A bump stock device allowed a gun owner who brought an arsenal of firearms into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in 2017 to open fire on an entire concert, committing the largest mass shooting in US history, leaving 60 people dead and 500 injured. The bump stock allowed the shooter to fire at least 1,00o rounds in 11 minutes.


Survivors Empowered cofounder Lonnie Phillips noted, “Even then-President Donald Trump was so alarmed by the carnage of  bump stocks that he banned them after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.”


According to the Washington Post, “the [SCOTUS] majority said the bump stocks do not qualify as machine guns under a 1986 law that barred civilians from owning the weapons. “Arguments made in the original case (Garland v Cargill) did not directly involve the Second Amendment but “rather a test of the reach of a federal agency to enact and interpret regulations…” In the Cargill case, the federal agency is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, a longtime punching bag for the gun lobby. Lobbyists for arms dealers and manufacturers have so weakened the ATF that the agency and federally licensed firearms dealers are not permitted to digitize firearm information like serial numbers. The lack of digital records makes tracking a crime gun very difficult, denying justice to survivors and victims of gun crime and allowing criminals to commit more gun crimes.


The deadly Cargill decision further erodes the 1984 SCOTUS Chevron ruling (Chevron v Natural Resources Defense Council, 1984). In Chevron, SCOTUS stated that federal agencies (like the Environmental Protection Agency) can make rules or interpret statutes. Chevron held that courts can determine if the agency’s ruling is “clear,” “ambiguous,” or if the agency is “silent” on an issue. If a court rules a statute to be ambiguous or silent, the court decides whether the agency’s interpretation is “reasonable” or “permissible.” If so, the court defers to the agency’s expertise. 


However, over the past 10 years, the Roberts court has shifted from deferring to an agency’s expertise to taking on the mantle of self-appointed experts in all things. Chief Justice Roberts has clearly forgotten his claim in his 2005 confirmation hearing to only “call balls or strikes.” 


Lonnie Phillips added, “We are facing an era where SCOTUS makes all decisions, and the experts make none.”


Sandy Phillips, who cofounded Survivors Empowered with her husband Lonnie, questioned the impact of the June 14 Cargill decision asking, “Will this decision eventually nullify laws against ghost guns or high-capacity magazines? We do know, however, that more people will be fatally shot or suffer gunshot injuries because of the US Supreme Court’s deadly pandering.”



  • Ask your state attorney general to protect your state by prohibiting the possession, sale, or transfer of bump stocks or ghost guns.
  • When you travel, ask your hotel what measures they are taking to prevent guests from bringing firearms into public spaces.
  • Before attending an event, ask the event organizers or promoters what security measures are in place to shelter people from another Mandalay Bay-style massacre. Is there a solid roof over the event? Are the nearby building windows bulletproof? 


Photo Attributions

Clarence Thomas

By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States – Clarence Thomas – The Oyez Project, Public Domain,

Bump Stock
WASR, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Thompson “Tommy” Gun
Retired general and inventor, John T. Thompson, holding his newly invented M1921 sub-machine gun/Senator John Heinz, History Center, In Association with the Smithsonian Institute.

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