Look, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the truth about bump stocks is they are not “machineguns.”
DOJ and ATF, at the behest of President Trump, were wrong to label them as such. Those agencies overstepped their regulatory authority in placing a confiscatory ban on the non-mechanical devices in 2018, thus subjecting as many as 500,000 bump stock owners to felony charges if they failed to comply.
Gun Owners of America (GOA) and other pro-gun organizations are working hard to overturn the ban.
In GOA’s case, its challenge now has the support of eighteen attorneys general from the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
While a panel for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals already struck down the ban in a 2-1 decision back in March of this year, GOA and the 18 attorneys general, who filed the amicus brief (see below) this week, want the full 6th Circuit to reach the same conclusion.
“In this case, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ (ATF) erroneous rulemaking would immediately transform hundreds of thousands of law-abiding gun owners residing in the States into criminals. The panel majority correctly denied that attempt, and this Court should now affirm that decision, en banc,” they wrote in the brief.
NCLA wants the highest court in the land to review a “flawed ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which invoked the Chevron doctrine in at least three improper ways.”
The Chevron doctrine holds that the courts should defer to administrative agencies when a law is unclear as long as that interpretation is reasonable and Congress has not directly spoken on an issue. But as the Supreme Court ruled in 2014, “we have never held that the government’s reading of a criminal statute is entitled to any deference.” (Emphasis in original.) Since the ATF’s decision made millions of Americans felons overnight, Chevron does not apply.
“All eight court of appeals judges to review ATF’s bump stock ban without using Chevron deference—including five Tenth Circuit judges below—have decided ATF’s interpretation of the statute is flat wrong,” said Mark Chenoweth, NCLA Executive Director and General Counsel.
“The Aposhian case supplies the Supreme Court with a well-suited vehicle to clarify three aspects of Chevron deference and limit the damage this doctrine is doing to the rule of law,” he continued. “The Justices should seize this opportunity to clarify the law.”
While one cannot expect any resolution on the bump stock saga in the near future, the good news is if these lawsuits succeed in the long run, they could help beat back other attempts by federal agencies to ban other commonly owned firearms and accessories. We’re talking about 80-percent lowers and pistol braces, two products Biden’s ATF currently has in its crosshairs.