SCOTUS Will Not Review Trump’s Bump Stock Ban – At Least Not Now

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SCOTUS Will Not Review Trump's Bump Stock Ban - At Least Not Now
(Photo: Slidefire)

At one point in time, it would be unimaginable that possession of a piece of plastic that attaches to a firearm would carry a penalty of imprisonment of up to 10 years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

But that is what President Donald Trump’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) did in the wake of the Las Vegas Shooting by classifying bump stocks as “machineguns” under the National Firearms Act.

This reclassification effectively made law-abiding Americans’ lawfully purchased property illegal, despite the fact that President Barack Obama’s ATF had confirmed and reconfirmed that bump stocks were “firearm parts” and not subject to NFA restrictions in 20102012, and again in 2013.

Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the principal author of the 94’ Assault Weapons Ban, believed that the Trump administration overreached when it prohibited the reciprocating stocks in 2018.

“The ATF currently lacks authority under the law to ban bump stocks. The agency made this clear in a 2013 letter to Congress, writing that ‘stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes.’ The ATF director said the same thing to police chiefs a few months ago, which they confirmed in an open Judiciary Committee hearing,” Feinstein said at the time.

The ATF’s ability to interpret the law and issue public or specifically addressed “Opinion Letters” of a given federal statue stems from the Supreme Court case Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (467 U.S. 837 (1984)).

Per the ruling, the Supreme Court has empowered agencies (such as ATF) to make determinations on an ambiguous or unclear statue so long as the “interpretation is reasonable,” and compels lower courts to defer to these agencies’ interpretations. This power handed to the bureaucratic state has become known as Chevron Deference

In a direct challenge to the ATF’s reclassification of bump stocks, Damien Guedes of the Firearm Policy Coalition, and other pro-gun groups, sued the ATF, it’s acting director, and the attorney general, challenging President Trump’s bump stock ban through executive fiat.

In their petition to the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs outline that the court of appeals “applied Chevron deference in a manner that stretches that doctrine beyond its breaking point,” continuing, Chevron was never intended to be used as an “interpretation of a central element of a criminal statute,” and concluded that the lower court’s ruling “conflicts with numerous holdings of this Court, mischaracterizes the nature of Chevron deference, distorts the litigation process and the government’s prerogative regarding whether and how to exercise any implicitly delegated authority, and undermines fundamental tenets of our constitutional structure.”

SEE ALSO: Bloomberg’s 2A Lies on Full Display During Fox News Town Hall

On Monday (3-1-2020), the Supreme Court denied Guedes’ writ of certiorari. Unlike most denials of a writ, where the public at large does not get an indication of the court’s leanings of the case, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch released a separate statement that gave more insight into the case’s standing. 

Justice Gorsuch agreed with the petitioners that the Chevron Deference had been inappropriately applied in this case, and even noted that the Trump administration had also asked the lower courts to wave it. 

“The executive branch and affected citizens asked the court to do what courts usually do in statutory interpretation disputes: supply its best independent judgment about what the law means,” Justice Gorsuch remarked. “But, instead of deciding the case the old-fashioned way, the court placed an uninvited thumb on the scale in favor of the government.”

The justice went on to raise skepticism of the appropriateness in deferring to the government’s interpretation of the law in this case. 

“The law hasn’t changed; only an agency’s interpretation of it. And these days it sometimes seems agencies change their statutory interpretations almost as often as elections change administrations… Why should courts, charged with the independent and neutral interpretation of the laws Congress has enacted, defer to such bureaucratic pirouetting?”

Ultimately the justice sided with his colleagues that the court should wait to hear the case, noting that multiple lower courts are currently dealing with the prohibition.

“Before deciding whether to weigh in, we would benefit from hearing their considered judgments — provided, of course, that they are not afflicted with the same problems. But waiting should not be mistaken for lack of concern,” Gorsuch concluded.

Editor’s note: This article was written by Michael Johnson Jr.

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  • Gregory Romeu March 8, 2020, 11:13 am

    I’m waiting for the hearing in any Court in this country where they lay a bump stock, all by itself, down on a table in front of a jury and say, “Okay, shoot this like a machine gun!” ???

  • Ricky B. March 7, 2020, 12:33 pm

    This here is what we call irony… When someone who considers themselves a law abiding citizen, but maybe not too bright for wasting their good money on nonsense like a bump-stock, has been turned into a criminal by the same reality television clown who that poor loser helped become the 45th POTUS.

    Hahahahahahahahaha!!!! Y’all know reality television clowns don’t have that kind of unilateral authority in their entertainment-based careers as professional “celebrities”, right? But here in America, we have “checks & balances” so our poor dumb friend still has some recourse against the over-reach of this orange buffoon who unilaterally decided to make something you already own retroactively illegal, right? Oh wait, that’s right I forgot, that same reality television “star” stacked the entire federal judiciary system with judges whose only qualifications was total blind loyalty to the fickle wishes of an incompetent moron who has never made any decision that was NOT entirely based on his own self interests!!!

    My advice to all of you newly minted “criminals” who don’t want to surrender the expensive toy they purchased with their hard earned money to the government without any compensation for their financial loss… You made your bed when you voted a realty television clown into the most powerful position in our nation, so I have no sympathy for your dumb ass!!!! =)

  • Ed March 6, 2020, 1:33 pm

    Any knowledgeable gun guy knows fully automatic firearms are illegal. Have been for a long time. Altering a semi to make it function like a full auto is also illegal. Has been for a long time. How is this different? ATF was right, NRA was right. Let’s save our time and resources for more important stuff.

    • Talon Braun March 6, 2020, 2:33 pm

      Ed so was the 1934 and 1968 firearms acts but we allowed it

    • Rich Zellich March 6, 2020, 6:12 pm

      Fully automatic firearms most certainly are legal. There are states that have banned them, in defiance of the Constitution, but Congress has declined to make that error.

      They are heavily regulated, to be sure, and anti-gunners in Congress created a no-funding-for-manufacturing-permits end-run around the Second Amendment in 1986, but people in most states can still purchase any previously-made machine gun or destructive device by jumping through paperwork hoops and paying a $200 Transfer Tax.

    • Chad March 7, 2020, 2:27 pm

      Ed, your ignorant, factually incorrect statement shows your lack of knowledge on the topic. A) Automatic firearms are not illegal. I own one and have owned others, all within the confines of the law. B) Automatic is a term clearly defined by congress and signed into law by the president at the time. A bump stock clearly does not meet the legal definition. For a president to say it does is thumbing his nose at the rule of law. He is acting as a dictator with complete disregard for the other branches of government. To support his actions simply because you believe in what he is doing is a very dangerous position. What happens when he does it again on a topic you disagree with. Government officials who think they are above the law is the very definition of corruption.

    • Scotty Gunn March 7, 2020, 5:56 pm

      A bumpstock is not a full auto gun. You are manipulating the trigger for each shot.

    • Mike V March 7, 2020, 6:35 pm

      “Altering a semi to make it function like a full auto is also illegal.”

      Hmm? What alteration, bumpstock helps you pull the trigger faster, no alteration to the firing mechanism at all.

      Around a half a million people being converted into felons or made to destroy their property seems worthy of some time effort and energy to me.

    • Gregory Romeu March 8, 2020, 11:18 am

      I love it when fools make statements on matters they know absolutely nothing about.

      Full automatic Firearms have never been illegal. Neither are tanks cannons or weapons of mass destruction as long as you have the proper paperwork, I.e., permits and pay your regulatory ransom.

      Perhaps you need to go to a class 3 or class 7 gun dealer and make these kind of idiotic statements when they have a shop full of customers, have yourself videotaped and uploaded to YouTube and label your video, “DUMBASS!”

  • Jake March 6, 2020, 12:09 pm

    I believe automatic or selective fire weapons should be available in every state for every good citizen who wants one under the appropriate laws. That said, the bump stock is one of the dumbest “toys” I have seen.

    • Phillip March 6, 2020, 3:29 pm

      If, i have nothing illegal…why should i be denied? wheres the freedom in that?

    • Mike V March 7, 2020, 6:38 pm

      They were around a hundred bucks, super simple and were loads of fun every so often. Having trouble finding the “dumbest” in that.

  • Mauser6863 March 6, 2020, 9:22 am

    I would rather wait for a court composed of more Constitutionalist Judges for a final ruling on what the limits of government power are in this regard, as it has the effect of spreading to other agencies.

    Ruth Bader Ginsberg can’t live forever and at some point, John Roberts will decided (hopefully) to retire, as he has been a disaster. Trump would be able to fill both these openings with strong judges who could harshly rebuke this unlawful law.

    Hey Guns America, why don’t you find a SOT and conduct a test of whether its possible to fire a bump stock using a bipod or a rest. Many of of us have doubts the bipod is workable, which may shed more light onto the “Mystery of Las Vegas”, etc.

    Fingers Crossed

  • Robert L March 6, 2020, 8:06 am

    It appears the Justice is being the very conservative that we want on the courts. They are always the court of final opinion and that doesn’t change. The position of the Supreme Court allows the lower courts to come to the correct decision and reverse the knee jerk ban. If the lower courts don’t and it ends up with no other options to make a final determination then it sounds like this Justice is ready to right the wrong.

  • Jack March 5, 2020, 1:04 am

    What’s the point of appointing “conservative” judges if they refuse to hear our cases? Thanks Trump! Thanks NRA!

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