U.S.A. – -(Ammoland.com)- “David Codrea, Scott Heuman and Owen Monroe lawfully owned bumpstocks.1 They relied on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (‘ATF’) repeated express approval of so-called bumpstock-type devices,” a friend of the court brief filed Wednesday in the United States Supreme Court by attorneys Alan Alexander Beck and Stephen D. Stamboulieh explains. “Despite the ten-plus years of approval, the ATF reimagined and redefined terms in an unambiguous criminal statute to outlaw bumpstocks under penalty of prison, fines, and loss of Second Amendment rights.”
“As such, they have an interest in the outcome of this case because a positive ruling in the instant matter will assist them in their efforts to have their lawful property returned to them in the future and will help guide other courts in reaching the correct conclusion which is that bumpstocks are not machineguns,” the brief elaborates.
The brief is in support of GOA’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari, filed March 3, which listed among the reasons SCOTUS should find in favor of plaintiffs:
I. THE LOWER COURTS’ FINDING OF STATUTORY AMBIGUITY LED TO NUMEROUS LEGAL CONCLUSIONS IN CONFLICT WITH THIS COURT’S DECISIONS AND THE DECISIONS OF OTHER CIRCUITS.
II. THIS COURT’S REVIEW IS NECESSARY TO RESOLVE THE LOWER COURTS’ DISARRAY ABOUT WHETHER CHEVRON APPLIES IN THE CRIMINAL CONTEXT.
III. DESPITE THIS COURT’S SEEMINGLY CLEAR SIGNALS, A CIRCUIT SPLIT EXISTS AS TO WHETHER CHEVRON CAN BE WAIVED.
Because most of us aren’t lawyers, here’s an in-a-nutshell overview of the main argument we make in our brief, borrowed from The Federalist Society:
Under existing civil precedent, where a statute is ambiguous, a court will defer to an agency’s interpretation of a statute it is tasked with administering, so long as that interpretation is “reasonable.” Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).
But in criminal law, the rule of lenity requires the court to resolve any statutory ambiguity in favor of a criminal defendant. See Leocal v. Ashcroft, 543 U.S. 1, 11 n.8 (2004). This rule has been ingrained in our criminal law for decades. United States v. Wiltberger, 18 U.S. 76, 93 (1820) (“In criminal cases, a strict construction is always to be preferred; and if there be doubt, that is of itself conclusive.”).
“The government’s position is reminiscent of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984,” our brief continues, highlighting the ludicrousness of ATF’s position. “Basically, the government announces to the court what it is to believe and then demands the court march in lock-step along with it.
“Under the Final Rule, bumpstocks still do not fit the definition and are not machineguns,” the brief explains. “It is the equivalent of allowing an agency to declare a Honda Accord to be a Lamborghini simply because it passed a rule declaring it as such. Or maybe it would declare that the Accord, with an internal combustion engine, is actually an electric vehicle because it contains a battery.”
Forcing a court-ordered return of the property has been my goal. My device fits no rifle that I own but is nonetheless a collector’s item signed by its inventor, Bill Akins. Our complaint, which included a “takings clause” claim, wended its way from a standalone action against an acting attorney general to being consolidated with the Guedes v. BATFE complaint. The Supreme Court punted on hearing us, and both cases are currently pending before their circuit courts. So, a positive GOA ruling would definitely revitalize our efforts.
A copy of our brief is embedded below:
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.