Supreme Court takes up two major cases that could have sweeping affect on First Amendment and gun rights

The Supreme Court on Friday agree to hear two appeals involving gun and free speech rights: one dealing with “bump stocks” accessories for high-powered guns, and a free speech challenge by the National Rifle Association (NRA)

The high court will hear arguments in the case National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, which questions whether a government regulator threatening regulated entities with adverse regulatory actions if they do business with a controversial speaker, allegedly because of the government’s own hostility to the speaker’s viewpoint, violates the First Amendment.

The former Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), Maria T. Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, allegedly wielded DFS’s regulatory power to financially blacklist the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to cut ties with the Association, in an effort, the group says, to suppress its speech.

The lawsuit alleges that Vullo made “backroom threats” against regulated firms, accompanied by offers of leniency on unrelated infractions if regulated entities agreed to blacklist the NRA.

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A federal appeals court dismissed the gun rights group’s lawsuit, claiming that DFS suppressed its speech by pressuring banks and insurers to stop doing business with it.

The second case, Garland v. Cargill, presents the questions of whether a bump stock device is a “machine gun” as defined in federal law because it is designed and intended for use in converting a rifle into a weapon that fires “automatically more than one shot … by a single function of the trigger.” 

In the wake of a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 60 people dead and 500 more wounded, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued an interpretive rule concluding that bump stocks are machine guns.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic weapon’s “cyclic firing rate to mimic nearly continuous automatic fire,” according to ATF.

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Semi-automatic rifles with bump stocks could fire hundreds of rounds per minute, according to experts.

They were originally created to make it easier for people with disabilities to fire a gun. The device essentially replaces the gun’s stock and pistol grip and causes the weapon to buck back and forth, repeatedly “bumping” the trigger against the shooter’s finger.

Michael Cargill, Owner of Central Texas Gun Works, sued the government after he was forced to surrender several bump stocks under the ATF’s rule. 

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Cargill argued in his petition that the Supreme Court should take up the case because the question presented “has sharply divided the federal courts of appeals”

Three appeals courts agree with ATF’s pre-2018 position that non-mechanical bump stocks are not “machinegun[s],” while two other appeals courts agree with ATF’s present-day interpretation.

Oral argument dates for both cases will be held next year, with decisions on the cases expected in June.

Fox News Digital’s Chris Pandolfo and Fox News’ Bill Mears and Shannon Bream contributed to this report. 

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