U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- The appeal by the Plaintiffs against the BATFE in the bump stock ruling has been expedited. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the parties to submit briefs by March 4th of 2019. That is extraordinarily fast by U.S. appeals court standards.
The original ruling by the Circuit court hinged on the notion that ordinary words are ambiguous, and an agency can reverse previous rulings when the agency decides to do so. From the opinion:
Most of the plaintiffs’ administrative law challenges are foreclosed by the Chevron doctrine, which permits an agency to reasonably define undefined statutory terms. See Chevron v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Here, Congress defined “machinegun” in the NFA to include devices that permit a firearm to shoot “automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger,” 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b), but it did not further define the terms “single function of the trigger” or “automatically.” Because both terms are ambiguous, ATF was permitted to reasonably interpret them, and in light of their ordinary meaning, it was reasonable for ATF to interpret “single function of the trigger” to mean “single pull of the trigger and analogous motions” and “automatically” to mean “as the result of a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows the firing of multiple rounds through a single pull of the trigger.” ATF also reasonably applied these definitions when it concluded that bump stocks permit a shooter to discharge multiple rounds automatically with a single function of the trigger. That this decision marked a reversal of ATF’s previous interpretation is not a basis for invalidating the rule because ATF’s current interpretation is lawful and ATF adequately explained the change in interpretation.
The Chevron doctrine gives enormous power to the administrative bureaucracies. An agency is not required to be consistent. An agency can change its interpretations of the law arbitrarily, as long as it can conjure up some justification of reasonableness.
One of the major challenges to the bump stock ban is that it reverses long-standing interpretation of the statute by the BATFE.
Both of President Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh, have been critical of the Chevron decision and its consequences. From eenews.net:
The Chevron doctrine, which is named for a 1984 Supreme Court case, played a big role in the confirmation battle for Gorsuch, who wrote a scathing concurring opinion slamming the doctrine shortly before he was nominated for the high court. Senators focused several questions on the doctrine during Gorsuch’s multiday hearing.
While Chevron is unlikely to make front-page news during the Kavanaugh confirmation process, the debate over the future of the doctrine remains strong, particularly in conservative legal circles.
The Chevron decision gives enormous power to unelected officials. It undercuts the rule of law, as interpretations of a rule can be reversed at any time, arbitrarily, and without any change in the law by Congress.
When the Chevron decision was made, it was the D.C. Circuit court that was undercutting the democratic process, by applying the court’s interpretation of regulations, which often seemed at odds with what Congress had intended.
Chevron was meant to stop the abuse of power by the D.C. Circuit but unintentionally gave enormous power to the bureaucracy.
It is difficult to accurately assign motivations to an appeals court or to the Supreme Court based on the timing of appeals.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.