A bump stock case in Houston is making waves in the pro-gun community after federal prosecutors dropped bump stock-related charges against a man because “the government couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt the bump stock was a machine gun,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
Ajay Dhingra, 44, was convicted for lying when he purchased a handgun, rifle and ammunition, and illegally possessing a weapon as a person who had been committed for mental illness. But federal prosecutors dropped charges for bump stock possession after Dhingra’s defense found a former ATF agent willing to testify that bump stocks are not machine guns.
That agent, Rick Vasquez, was ready to testify that, unlike machine guns, bump stocks require the shooter to make contact with the trigger each time a round is fired. His testimony convinced the prosecution that they would be unable to prove that a bump stock is a machine gun, despite the ATF ruling in 2018 that the two are synonymous.
“If something doesn’t meet the definition of a machine gun, it’s not a machine gun,” said defense attorney Tom Berg. “And no amount of wishing or passing rules can change it.”
Bump stocks were not incredibly popular AR-15 accessories relative to products like scopes, standard stocks, and aftermarket triggers. But they became a symbol for unaccountable federal power after the ATF unilaterally reversed its previous ruling and categorized bump stocks as machine guns.
When bump stocks were first introduced in 2010, the ATF told bump stock company SlideFire that their product would not be regulated as a machine gun.
“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed,” they wrote.
“In order to use the installed device, the shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand,” the agency continued. “Accordingly we find that the ‘bump-stock’ is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.”
Then, in 2018, following the Las Vegas massacre in which the shooter had bump stocks in his possession, the ATF reversed its decision and effectively banned the possession of bump stocks by re-categorizing them as machine guns.
The lawsuits from pro-gun organizations came fast and furious. Unfortunately, most were unsuccessful, and the ATF rule stood. One of the last remaining cases is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which is set to hear a challenge to the ATF’s ruling before the full 12-judge panel.
It’s unclear whether this case out of Houston will help the bump stock cause. But it certainly can’t hurt.