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Gun Owners of America to file lawsuit over Trump’s new bump stock ban

Bump Fire Stock mounted on a GP WASR-10/36 AK-47.(WASR/Wikimedia Commons)
December 18, 2018

On Tuesday, President Trump followed through on his vow to ban bump stock gun accessories under federal law.

Second Amendment advocacy group Gun Owners of America announced shortly after that it would be filing legal action against the government in response to the ban.

“Gun Owners of America (GOA) and its Foundation (GOF) will be filing suit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Justice [DOJ] to seek an injunction protecting gun owners from their illegal prohibition of bump stocks,” said a statement by the group.

The bump stock accessories will be banned under the same law that bans machine guns, a Justice Department official told the Associated Press.

To comply with the ban, those who own bump stocks will be forced to turn them over to the ATF or destroy them, the DOJ official told AP.

The ban effectively reverses the ATF’s decision from 2010 that deemed bump stocks different from machine guns and unable to be subjected to the same regulation as machine guns.

“The GOA lawsuit will demonstrate that the ATF bump stock ban is wholly unauthorized by statute, and completely inconsistent with all prior ATF rulings as to what constitutes a machine gun,” GOA Spokesman Erich Pratt told American Military News.

However, unlike the internal mechanisms of a machine gun that permit high rates of automatic fire in rapid bursts, a bump stock is an accessory that is affixed externally to a semi-automatic gun. Without changing the internal components, a bump stock uses the gun’s recoil to then “bump” the gun back against the user’s finger, causing another round to fire.

A bump stock does not change a semi-automatic gun’s ability to shoot one bullet per trigger pull, whereas a machine gun fires a rapid burst of bullets per single trigger pull. Instead, a bump stock enabled the trigger to be pulled quickly, simulating a higher rate of fire than a user can typically achieve with the unaided action of their finger.

“ATF’s claim that it can rewrite Congressional law cannot pass legal muster. Agencies are not free to rewrite laws under the guise of ‘interpretation’ of a statute, especially where the law’s meaning is clear,” Pratt said in a statement.

“The new ATF regulations would arbitrarily redefine bump stocks as ‘machine guns’ — and, down the road, could implicate the right to own AR-15’s and many other lawfully owned semi-automatic firearms,” Pratt continued. “ATF’s new bump stock regulation clearly violates federal law, as bump stocks do not qualify as machine guns under the federal statute.”

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed the regulation on Tuesday. It is expected to be published in the Federal Register by Friday, after which it will take 90 days to go into effect.

The Department of Justice statement said:

This final rule amends the regulatory definition of “machine gun” in Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), sections 447.11, 478.11, and 479.11.  The final rule amends the regulatory text by adding the following language:  “The term ‘machine gun’ includes bump-stock devices, i.e., devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semi-automatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.” Furthermore, the final rule defines “automatically” and “single function of the trigger” as those terms are used in the statutory definition of machine gun.  Specifically,

  • “automatically” as it modifies “shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot,” means functioning as a result of a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows the firing of multiple rounds through the single function of the trigger;
  • “single function of the trigger” means single pull of the trigger and analogous motions.

Because the final rule clarifies that bump-stock-type devices are machine guns, the devices fall within the purview of the NFA and are subject to the restrictions of  18 U.S.C. 922(o).  As a result, persons in possession of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of the devices before the effective date of the final rule.  A current possessor may destroy the device or abandon it at the nearest ATF office, but no compensation will be provided for the device.  Any method of destruction must render the device incapable of being readily restored to its intended function.

An estimated “half a million” people own bump stocks, according to GOA.

Pratt said the lawsuit will be filed by Friday when the ban is officially published, at which time they will announce “other groups and parties” who join the case.