Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals throws out bump stock ban

 January 9, 2023

In a major win for the Second Amendment, judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals moved last week to strike down a federal gun law. 

According to Breitbart, the decision concerned a rule promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) over four years concerning bump stocks.

Bump stocks are devices which can be attached to semiautomatic firearms and assist a shooter in pulling the trigger more quickly.

The details

First announced in December of 2018, the rule provided owners bump stock owners with a 90 window to either surrender or destroy the devices:

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.

Among those who surrendered his bump stocks was Michael Cargill, who later challenged the ATF's ban in the Western District of Texas.

In writing the Fifth Circuit's majority opinion, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod pointed out how there was "tremendous" political pressure to ban bump stock after a 2017 mass shooting that claimed the lives of 58 people.

"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," Breitbart quoted her as saying.

"Appellant Michael Cargill surrendered several bump stocks to the Government following publication of the regulation at issue," Elrod continued, noting that Cargill "now challenges the legality of that regulation."

The plaintiff argued that a bump stock does not constitute an automatic weapon under federal law, an argument with which Elrod agreed.

"A plain reading"

"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 wrote.

Further, Elrod pointed to the "rule of lenity," a legal principle according to which "penal laws are to be construed strictly."

As Breitbart noted, Friday's decision could have implications for another rule the ATF is about to release regarding pistol stabilizing pistol stabilizing braces.

The NRA reported earlier this month that the ATF plans to reclassify pistols equipped with certain braces as being short-barreled rifle, something which will require owners to undergo a costly registration process.

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