WASHINGTON, D.C. -(Ammoland.com)- The United States Supreme Court declined to hear two bump stock cases meaning bump stocks will remain illegal for the foreseeable future.
After the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting, President Donald Trump ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to investigate the legality of bump stocks. The President was spurred on by an initial report from the FBI that the killer had several firearms equipped with bump stocks.
Overnight bumps stocks became enemy number one of the anti-gun crowds and the media.
A bump stock is a device that replaces the stock and pistol grip. When the shooter puts forward pressure on the hand guard, it causes the shooter to pull the trigger. The shooter keeps pressure on the hand guard causing the firearm’s recoil to reset the trigger. This technique is called bump firing. It is possible to bump fire using a belt loop or rubber band. A bump stock just makes bump firing easier.
Anti-gun advocates claimed the device was a machine gun. Before the shooting, the ATF long held that bump stocks did not meet the definition of a machine gun because the shooter’s finger pulled the trigger once for each bullet expelled. Although the device sped up the rate of fire, the device did not convert the firearm from semi-automatic to full auto.
After Trump’s demand, the ATF used Chevron Deference to reverse the ATF’s previous decision and declared the device a machine gun. Chevron deference says when a regulation is unclear, the agency responsible for the rule can use its deference to decide what it means. Before bump stocks, Chevron deference was only used for administrative regulations. The ATF has now started using its deference for criminal statutes.
After the new regulation was enacted, Gun Owners of America (GOA) sued the Department of Justice over the new rule in the Sixth Circuit in GOA v. Garland. The gun rights group would lose in District Court but would win in front of a panel of three judges in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal government asked in received an en banc hearing. An en banc hearing means the full bench of Judges hears the case. The Sixth Circuit split in an 8-8 decision. Since the court ruled for neither side, the lower District Court’s decision stands.
GOA expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision not to grant a writ of certiorari. Advocates hoped that the Court would start taking on more gun cases. SCOTUS had a history of rejecting Second Amendment cases until it agreed to hear Bruen.
“The implications of redefining a bump stock, redefining a firearm accessory and calling it a machine gun because it was capable of bump fire sets a horrible precedent,” said Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America. “We are not going to stop defending our members’ rights because of one setback or one court that refuses to get involved.”
The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) also sued in the Tenth Circuit over the ATF’s abuse of Chevron deference in Aposhian v. Garland. The plaintiff’s injunctions were denied in District Court. NCLA appealed the decision to a panel of judges in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel upheld the District Court’s decision. NCLA then filed for and received an en banc hearing. The Tenth Circuit also agreed with the District Court’s ruling.
The final case that can affect bump stocks is Cargill v. Garland. That case is currently sitting with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs lost a panel decision but were granted an en banc hearing. No matter what side wins, the losing side is expected to petition SCOTUS for certiorari in this case.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, bump stocks will remain illegal, and it might be some time before SCOTUS hears a case that will reverse the ATF’s use of Chevron deference.
About John Crump
John is a 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.