A federal appeals court ruled against the Trump-era ban on bump stocks, potentially advancing to the Supreme Court a similar case challenging the regulation, a Second Amendment advocacy group announced this weekend.
In a statement Sunday, Gun Owners of America (GOA), which is challenging the rule, acknowledged that the Supreme Court refused to hear their case earlier this year.
However, it struck an optimist tone, citing the late Friday decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to strike down the ban on bump stock, a firearm accessory that enables semi-automatics to shoot at an increased rate.
GOA applauded the decision, deeming the regulation imposed in the wake of the 2017 shooting massacre that slaughtered 58 people at a music festival in Las Vegas, “illegal.”
“The ruling today by the Fifth Circuit creates a circuit split, thereby greatly increasing the chance the high court will hear the case challenging the rule,” GOA announced.
Erich Pratt, the senior vice president at GOA, added:
This is very exciting news, and we congratulate Michael Cargill on this victory. We look forward to again appealing our own ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially teaming up with Mr. Cargill as we look to defend the rights of all Americans to own all semi-automatic firearms.
Cargill is the appellant who sued the government after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) forced him to surrender several bump stocks under the rule.
He succeeded in arguing the firearm accessory does not meet the federal law’s definition of a “machinegun,” noting that the weapon fires continuously by pulling the trigger multiple times.
Under federal law, a machine gun operates with a “single function of the trigger.”
In the lead majority opinion of the 13-3 ruling, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote:
A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of ‘machinegun’ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act.
The court held that the ATF, acting under “tremendous” pressure from the public, circumvented the legislative process by approving a rule to define bump stocks as heavily restricted “machineguns.”
ATF lacked Congress’ authority to make such a move, the court concluded.
Rich Samp, an attorney who represented Cargill, cheered the court’s ruling in a statement.
Samp noted [direct quote follows]:
This case is not about gun control. It is instead about who has the constitutional prerogative to change the criminal law if changes are warranted. The current statute, adopted in 1986, defines ‘machinegun’ in a manner that does not encompass non-mechanical bump stocks. It is unlawful for a prosecutorial entity like ATF to rewrite existing law without authorization from Congress. Any change in gun-control laws must emanate from Congress.
In response to former President Donald Trump’s 2018 executive order instructing the attorney general to restrict bump stocks, the ATF reversed its decade-old position that the accessories are not machineguns as regulated by federal law.
Acting in accordance with Trump’s order, the ATF asserted that bump stocks “allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.”
Bump stocks are therefore “machineguns” because “such devices allow a shooter to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger,” ATF said.
Trump’s ban endured challenges at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati; the 10th Circuit in Denver; and the Washington-based federal circuit court, the Associated Press reported.
A three-judge panel at the 5th Circuit also ruled in favor of the regulation, upholding a lower court decision in Texas.
Still, the full New Orleans-based court voted to reconsider the case, prompting arguments to be heard on September 13.