GunsAmerica has done extensive reporting on the Trump administration’s extraconstitutional bump stock ban that literally turned hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Americans into felons overnight back in 2019.
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We keep reporting on this ongoing saga because it really has nothing to do with the ultimate legal fate of bump stocks and everything to do with government overreach.
The administrative state, more specifically, the ATF and DOJ, did not have the authority to reclassify these non-mechanical accessories as “machineguns” and institute a confiscatory ban in which violators faced 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Only Congress retains the power to issue such a sweeping prohibition. And that is one of the central contentions of a lawsuit known as Michael Cargill v. Merrick B. Garland, et al. that is set to be heard before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on September 13th.
This week, 19 prominent civil liberties organizations, policy coalitions, and individual gun owners submitted amicus briefs in support of that suit which was filed by the nonprofit New Civil Liberties Alliance.
They amici include all of the following parties: The Cato Institute; Liberty Justice Center; Pacific Legal Foundation; John Cutonilli; Firearms Policy Coalition; FPC Action Foundation; Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc.; NST Global, LLC; B&T USA, LLC; Gun Owners of America, Inc.; Gun Owners Foundation; Gun Owners of California, Inc.; Heller Foundation; Tennessee Firearms Association; Virginia Citizens Defense League; Grass Roots North Carolina; Rights Watch International; America’s Future; and Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“The U.S. Justice Department—through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)— broke from years of precedent and discovered a new power to prohibit that widely held type of firearm accessory,” said the Cato Institute. “That power does not exist, and this Court should not defer to the government’s conclusions.”
A panel for the 5th Circuit had previously upheld the ban in December of 2021. But that decision was vacated by the court in June. The case will now go before the entire court in what’s known as an en banc session.
“This unlawful regulatory action transformed more than half a million law-abiding American citizens into presumptive felons overnight. And ATF now demands that these citizens surrender their bump stocks—lawfully obtained property that, in the aggregate, represents over $100 million in purchase value—or face potential criminal liability, including prison time,” observed the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., NST Global, LLC, and B&T USA, LLC.
“This is precisely the type of regulatory behavior that, in our constitutional system, must be rigorously reviewed by the independent judiciary to ensure that only Congress, not the Executive, has ‘ma[d]e an act a crime,’” they continued.
ATF cannot rewrite definitions and outlaw popular firearm accessories on the fly. That is a bridge way, way too far. It is a regulatory agency, not a legislative body. Let us hope that the full 5th Circuit sees it that way and reins in this abuse of power.