Bump Stock Battle Rages On As GOA/GOF Files A Supplemental Brief

Slidefire Solutions Bump Fire Stock on an Anderson Rifles AR15 Lower
Bump Stock Battle Rages On As GOA/GOF Files A Supplemental Brief

CINCINNATI, OH-(Ammoland.com)- The battle for bump stock rolls on as attorneys for Gun Owners of America files a supplemental brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Gun Owners of America v. Garland.

In a statement, Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of GOA and GOF, said: “We’re pleased to continue the battle against the ATF’s unconstitutional ban on bump stocks. As shown by their Proposed Rules on homemade and braced firearms, this rogue, lawless agency seeks to chip away at the rights of law-abiding gun owners. And this is why it is vitally important that their actions — including their ban of bump stocks — do not go unchecked. GOA and GOF will continue to hold the ATF accountable for its repeated assaults upon the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.”

The Gun Owners of America initially argued the case in front of a panel of judges on December 11, 2019. From the panel’s questioning of the government, most legal experts expected a positive outcome for gun rights. A few months later, in May, a three-judge panel from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government in Aposhian v. Barr. On September 10, 2020, The Tenth Circuit granted a rehearing en banc.

En banc means the entire bench will hear the case. The prior ruling of the panel is vacated, meaning it is like it never happened. The declaration of the Tenth Circuit worried some pro-gun advocates since Circuit Courts do not like to give contradictory rulings. But on June 25, 2021, the Sixth Circuit handed down a decision by a 2-1 margin that stated bump stocks “are not a machine gun.”

The Sixth Circuit ordered the District Court to grant an injunction against the bump stock ban. The federal government asked for an en banc hearing. The Sixth Circuit granted the government its request, thus vacating the panel’s pro-gun decision. Because an en banc hearing is basically a “do-over,” attorneys for Gun Owners of America lead by Robert Olson had to file a new brief in the case stating why that the plaintiffs believe that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) didn’t have a right to ban bump stocks.

The government is claiming that it has Chevron deference when it comes to the definition of a machine gun.

Chevron deference stems from Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. In that case, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that if a statute is ambiguous, then deference is given to the regulatory agency.

Olson makes the case that “Chevron does not apply because the statute is not ambiguous.” GOA argues that the statue does not have any gray areas. The definition of a machine is clear. With a single function of the trigger, the gun fires multiple rounds. A bump stock doesn’t work in a similar way. The trigger needs to be pulled for each round to fire. A bump stock uses the recoil of the rifle to speed up firing. The same effect can be accomplished by using a rubber band or belt loop.

The original panel concluded that Chevron does not apply because this is a criminal statute. In the ruling, the majority wrote, “no deference is owed to an agency’s interpretation of a criminal statute.” Olson agrees with the panel, and GOA has case law on its side. In the United States v. Apel, the Supreme Court wrote, “we have never held that the Government’s reading of a criminal statute is entitled to any deference.” Also, in Abramski v. the United States, SCOTUS wrote, “criminal laws are for courts, not for the Government, to construe … ATF’s … position … is … not relevant at all” and “a court has an obligation to correct [the agency’s] error.”

The supplemental brief argues that “a president’s political objectives do not receive Chevron deference.” It can’t be argued that President Trump wasn’t the catalyst for the change to the definition of a machine gun. In 2018, he stated that bump stocks should be a machine and ordered the ATF to “write out” the device, but Trump did not have the expertise to make the claim that bump stocks were machines and didn’t have the power to order the ATF to “write out” the product.

Deference is given to agencies because they are assumed to have “expertise” in “highly technical” areas of the law. The Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) of the ATF first reviewed bump stocks in 2008 and determined that the device was not a machine gun. For the next nine years, the ATF held firm in its opinion that bump stocks were not machine guns and repeatedly issued opinion letters on the subject. It wasn’t until the President order the agency to redefine a machine gun that bump stocks were banned. The government claims that bump stocks are machine guns because it allows “continuous firing initiated by a single action by the shooter.” This definition is different than a “single function of the trigger.”

The decision to make bump stocks a machine gun was one of the President’s policy goals.

GOA makes the case that Chevron deference cannot be used for a policy goal. Case law seems to be on their side. In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, SCOTUS ruled that an agency may not “rewrit[e] …unambiguous statutory terms” to suit “bureaucratic policy goals.”

Olson points out that Congress did not delegate to ATF the authority to define or redefine the term “Machinegun.” This fact is important because the courts have ruled that only Congress has the power to write new federal criminal law. In the United States v. Davis, SCOTUS wrote that “[o]nly the people’s elected representatives in Congress have the power to write new federal criminal laws.”

GOA says that even if the statute were ambiguous, then it is Unconstitutionally vague. The gun-rights groups argue that the “Rule of Lenity” applies here. Ambiguities in criminal statutes have always been interpreted against the government. In this case, the government is arguing that ambiguities should be ruled in favor of it, which would break new ground in case law.

All this might not matter because the government seems to have waived Chevron deference by not raising it in district court. In Help Alert W. Ky., Inc. v. TVA, the court ruled the federal government waived any reliance on Chevron deference by failing to raise it to the district court.” On the same day the panel handed down its decision in favor of GOA, SCOTUS declined to consider Chevron deference in HollyFrontier Cheyenne Ref., LLC v. Renewable Fuels Ass’n because the government did not ask for deference earlier therefore waived deference.

The final point Olson makes is that “deference here will only further embolden ATF’s lawless actions.” Many consider the ATF to be out of control. The ATF is trying to use deference to shut down the unfinished firearm frames and pistol-stabilizing brace markets. Many do not believe that the agency has the power to do so because they would be making de facto laws. If GOA is successful in the bump stock case, then it could throw a monkey wrench into the ATF’s future plans.

There is no timeline for a final decision in the bump stock case, but the bump stock war is far from over. Both sides are expected to appeal a negative outcome to the Supreme Court.


About John Crump

John is an NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.

John Crump

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JimmyS
JimmyS
1 month ago

The 2nd Amendment may or may not be absolute, but all rights ARE absolute, as in they are beyond the purview of government power.

The ATF isn’t “rogue”, it is unlawful, criminal, treasonous, and despotic, because it exists to exercise control over several rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to private property.

Watch um
Watch um
1 month ago

If you locked all lawyers in a room with only water to drink they would end up fighting until they were all deceased and the last one standing would start eating the deceased. There have never be two lawyers that agreed on anything. The Supreme Court should only have men who only have a high school education and wear overalls or never wear a tie. Who in their right mind wears a long sleeve shirt and a rag tied tight around their neck and a coat in the summer time. It might be time to send nothing but good old… Read more »

hippybiker
hippybiker
1 month ago

Just another classic example of the out of control, run amok United States government wasting the Tax Payers monies!

JulianaWelch
JulianaWelch
1 month ago

the world is going crazy…

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago

The question has been taken off the table. Neither the House and Senate, nor the president, nor the F squad has any authority whatsoever to infringe on ownership, possession, creation or the bearing of arms, be they edged weapons, firearms or destructive devices. The second amendment settled the question, telling the government to f off, mind your manners, and be respective of your betters…. your employers, the American People.

Ryben Flynn
Ryben Flynn
1 month ago

Just because President Trump he said he didn’t like bump stocks is no reason for the ATF to go rogue on them. President Trump also said he didn’t like “silencers” and those are already highly regulated and they shouldn’t be.

Stag
Stag
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryben Flynn

The ATF has never gone “rogue”. They always do exactly as they’re told. They we’re told by the last administration to regulate bumpstocks and they did. They were told by this administration to regulate braces and they’re working on that. Doing the job they were created to do, which is violate constitutional rights, isn’t “going rogue”. Going rogue would mean they’re refusing to regulate the things they were created to regulate.

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner
1 month ago
Reply to  Stag

Does the colloquial American term “nit-picky” have any special meaning for you?

JSNMGC
JSNMGC
1 month ago

Stag’s comments aren’t “nit-picky.”

When the BATFE expanded their efforts to infringe on rights during the Trump administration, some Ammoland writers and posters kept saying they were a “rogue” agency in an attempt to relieve Trump of responsibility. They were not a “rogue agency.” I’m not aware of one order from the President or AG that they did not follow.

The same goes for the BATFE’s efforts under the Biden administration – they will follow orders. Garland, and ultimately Biden, are responsible for their actions.

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner
1 month ago
Reply to  Stag

BATFE has gone “rogue” in the sense that they have become determined to do what they, as an organazational entity, have determined to do; or been directed to do. Rather than what they were created to do, or what their mandate specifies they do, or what their authority gives them the power to do; or whar We the People allow them to do with the consent of We the Governed. And I am done with the friggin’ ATF. They are corrupt, evil, and Unconstitutional. They need to go, NOW. All I am concerned with now is killing their representatives and… Read more »

JSNMGC
JSNMGC
1 month ago

The BATFE should be eliminated, but they are not “rogue.”

Country Boy
Country Boy
1 month ago
Reply to  JSNMGC

I disagree. Since the ATF was originally formed with only one duty to perform in the beginning, which was to ensure the import tax on imported firearms was paid and that imported firearms were legally imported. Now the ATF believes it is a legislative branch and invents gun laws in conflict with the US contitution/2nd A, then enforces them against innocent citizens which is unconstitutional/illegal.. The ATF has been rogue since shortly after it’s forming.

JSNMGC
JSNMGC
1 month ago
Reply to  Country Boy

Did the BATFE not follow any of Trump’s orders?

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner
1 month ago
Reply to  Stag

Legally, ethically. Morally, ATF should have told Predident Trump “No” in regards to bump stocks; and they sure as hell should have told senile Jackass Biden “NO” regarding pistol braces.

swmft
swmft
1 month ago
Reply to  Stag

a you are correct ,revenuers were set up under prohibition, and as such should have sunsetted with the repeal but no government agency ever goes away even if the law that permitted them is gone we need to vote out of existence, oh wait would require amendment to constitution they never thought the people could handle their own affairs no way to recall government either no confidence vote of people triggering a replacement congress and president that would be sweet carter would have gone down nixion might have gotten a reprieve lbj would have been shot by firing squad, 1n… Read more »

Ryben Flynn
Ryben Flynn
1 month ago
Reply to  Stag

Rewriting definitions stated in Law is not their job which they did with bump stocks. I call that going rogue. If bump stocks should be banned it is up to Congress to amend the 1934 NFA, not the ATF by changing definitions as they are now trying to do with pistol braces.

swmft
swmft
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryben Flynn

nothing gives him the power to change a right either ,rosevelt broke all kinds of laws people ere kept to stupid to understand