In a major win for American gun rights, a federal circuit court has just ruled that bump stocks do not qualify as machine guns under federal law.
According to Breitbart, that decision was made on Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and came in response to a rule put forward by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in December of 2018.
Judge points to “plain reading of the statutory language”
The rule argued that bump stocks qualified as illegal automatic weapons and gave their owners a 90 day grace period to surrender them. It read,
The Department of Justice is amending the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to clarify that bump-stock-type devices — meaning “bump fire” stocks, slide-fire devices, and devices with certain similar characteristics — are “machineguns” as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 because such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.
Gun owner Michael Cargill responded by challenging the ban in the Western District of Texas, with the case working its way up to the Fifth Circuit.
Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote the court’s majority opinion, recalling how “pressure to ban bump stocks was tremendous” following a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
“Multiple bills to that effect were introduced in both houses of Congress. But before they could be considered in earnest, ATF published the regulation at issue here, short circuiting the legislative process,” Elrod noted.
“Appellant Michael Cargill surrendered several bump stocks to the Government following publication of the regulation at issue,” she explained before adding that Cargill “now challenges the legality of that regulation.”
Elrod then argued that the plaintiff is correct in his contention that a bump stock does not meet the legal definition of a machine gun.
“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,” she asserted.
Decision could affect new ATF rule on pistol braces
What’s more, Elrod said the ATF’s move violated the “rule of lenity” under which “penal laws are to be construed strictly.”
Breitbart noted that the ATF may yet appeal last week’s decision to the Supreme Court although “no indication has been given as to whether or not an appeal will be filed.”
The website also pointed out that the decision could impact another ATF constructed rule on pistol stabilizing braces.
The NRA has reported that the ATF will publish a new rule on braces by the end of the month, which will result in current owners being required to undergo a long and expensive registration process.