Clarence Thomas' ‘Bump Stock’ Death Wish for America | Opinion

Photo by Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, via Wikimedia Commons.

In 2017, a man with bump stock-enhanced rifles perched himself at a Las Vegas hotel window, trained his crosshairs on thousands of concert-goers below, murdered 60 people, and permanently maimed hundreds more.

After the slaughter, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a rule classifying bump stocks as “machine guns” under 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b), and banned their sale.

Last week, Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the radicalized 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, overturned the ban, claiming that, “a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a machine gun,” given that “it cannot fire more than one shot by a single function of the trigger.” According to Thomas, a bump stock leaves the trigger finger in place after the shooter fires, but then the gun’s recoil continues to hammer the trigger so it’s not technically “a single function of the trigger,” even though the rapid-fire deadly results are the same.

Thomas sentences Americans to mass slaughter while he is safe

Thomas’ callous disregard for life — playing word games to legalize bump stocks that function like machine guns — is hard to stomach. As the ATF argued, legalizing bump stocks simply because the trigger moves back and forth “exalts artifice above reality” to evade one of the few still-standing gun regulations under the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Thomas needs to tell the families who have lost children and loved ones to mass shootings how an automatic recoil hammering the trigger makes any difference to the permanent, gaping hole left in their lives.

Thomas is presumably safe from his own death warrant, because, unlike most Americans, he travels in the rarefied safety of a billionaire’s private jet. When he’s not on Harlon Crow’s aircraft, he travels in a tricked out RV — complete with a bulletproof Detroit Diesel engine financed by another wealthy patron.

NRA-backed Republicans bastardize the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment does not say what the NRA, Thomas, and right-wing radicals on the Supreme Court claim it does. The Second Amendment states, in its entirety:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This amendment was adopted in 1791 after General George Washington had just lived through the British occupation, and the colonies’ need to form a defensive militia was fresh in his mind. Nowhere does the Second Amendment state that citizens have the right to bear arms against their neighbors, rather, the right to bear arms was a matter of collective defense.

Anyone can read that “bearing arms” is linked to a well regulated militia — they’re in the same sentence. However, alleged originalists on the Court, who otherwise claim to honor the original Constitutional text, have deleted the words, “well regulated militia” right out of existence.

Shady pro-gun “research”

Turns out that multiple, federal pro-gun decisions have relied on “independent” gun research from a single researcher, William English, who is anything but independent. 

The New York Times recently reported that William English, an economist at Georgetown University, has peddled NRA-backed research while refusing to disclose who funds his work.

Reviewing his survey instruments, other researchers say English’s surveys employ deliberately ambiguous wording, written to elicit answers that overstate the degree to which guns are used in self-defense. Equally problematic, his research lacks formal peer review. English’s questionable “independent research” has been mostly driven by litigation and is “backed with millions of dollars in dark money...”

Thomas’ gun fetish would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous

Thomas paved the way for last week’s bump stock endorsement with his outrageous 2022 Bruen opinion. In Bruen, Thomas swept away all modern gun restrictions that cannot be tied to an “historical antecedent,” meaning, if a similar gun law like concealed carry didn’t exist hundreds of years ago, we can’t have it now.  Never mind that in 1790 it was physically impossible to shove a bayonet, infantry rifle, or musket down one’s pants and still walk.

Striking modern gun restrictions because they didn’t exist 250 years ago is as sensible as outlawing electric cars because the founders didn’t drive them. Like Dobbs, Bruen and the bump-stock decision used sleight of hand, cherry-picked history to support conservatives’ desired legal outcome. All three decisions will have deadly consequences.

Crooked NRA-backed justices continue to lie about the Second Amendment to line their own pockets, putting all of us at risk. May this be the decision that puts SCOTUS in the crosshairs of American voters, upsetting them enough to make court reform an election priority this November.


Sabrina Haake is a columnist and 25 year litigator specializing in 1st and 14th Amendment defense. Her Substack, The Haake, is free.

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