Las Vegas massacre survivor rips Supreme Court’s bump-stock ruling: ‘It’s disgusting’

A bartender working on the night of the deadliest mass shooting in US history slammed the court’s decision

Friday 14 June 2024 22:15 BST
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Las Vegas massacre survivor Heather Gooze speaks before Congress
Las Vegas massacre survivor Heather Gooze speaks before Congress (Twitter)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

When a deafening noise erupted at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, bartender Heather Gooze thought she was hearing audio feedback from the speakers.

The source of the sound, Gooze soon learned, was gunfire.

That was just the first of 1,057 rounds that a mass shooter fired at the crowd in just 11 minutes, killing 58 people and injuring 500 more. It was the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

In the Mandalay Bay hotel suites where the shooter was perched, police recovered 24 weapons, and at least half of those were AR-15-style rifles with bump stocks.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled on Friday that a Trump-era ban on bump stocks — devices that can be tacked onto semi-automatic firearms to allow them to fire bullets faster — was unconstitutional.

Photographs of some of the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting
Photographs of some of the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting (AFP via Getty Images)

“I think it’s disgusting,” Gooze said of the Garland v Cargill ruling in a message to The Independent.

The bartender saw firsthand the carnage caused by powerful weapons, which are only made more dangerous by bump stocks.

In the wake of the massacre, the bartender told Congress about her harrowing experience. Clarifying that she was “not anti-gun,” Gooze spoke in support of then-Senator Dianne Feinstein’s 2017 bill to ban bump stocks.

Gooze shared with lawmakers her “night of terror,” when she sprung into action as the festival transformed into a bloodbath.

She recalled getting covered in blood as she held a jean jacket up against an unconscious concertgoer’s head to try to stop the bleeding. As they waited for medical help to arrive, Gooze recalled: “The jacket fell, and I was left plugging the hole in the victim’s head with my bare fingers.”

At some point during the nightmare, Gooze met another victim whose hand she held until he couldn’t hold it any more. She stayed with his body for more than four hours, even answering his phone to give the worst news imaginable to his loved ones.

Now, nearly seven years after the tragedy, Gooze still firmly believes: “There is just no need for the general public to have unlimited access to a tool that turns a regular gun into a semi-automatic weapon.”

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion for the majority that bump stocks do not convert rifles into a “machinegun.”

“A bump stock does not convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does,” Thomas wrote. “Even with a bump stock, a semiautomatic rifle will fire only one shot for every ‘function of the trigger.’”

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled on Friday that a Trump-era ban on bump stocks (pictured) was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled on Friday that a Trump-era ban on bump stocks (pictured) was unconstitutional. (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In her scathing dissent, Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck. A bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle fires ‘automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” She continued, “Because I, like Congress, call that a machinegun, I respectfully dissent.”

The liberal justice warned that reversing a ban on bump stocks “will have deadly consequences.”

Gun safety advocates agreed.

“More people are going to die because of the Supreme Court majority’s decision,” Doug Letter, chief legal officer at Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said.

The court allowed what happened on October 1, 2017, to “to happen again,” as gathering spaces, like concerts, sports games, parks, and protests, are “under extreme threat from this decision,” said Ciara Malone, legal director of March For Our Lives.

“The future lives of all those who become victims from bump stock enabled firearms deserve to be protected,” Malone added. “There will be another shooting, and it will be exponentially more deadly because of bump stocks, that blood would be on the Supreme Court’s hands.”

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