Contrary to popular belief, machine guns can be legally owned by most Americans. However, lawmakers and The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) have made them prohibitively expensive and subject to onerous regulations concerning their transfer. President Trump tried to effectively ban bump stocks by including them in the laws and regulations governing machine guns. Now the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held Trump’s move violated Americans’ rights
Ambiguous laws vs. the people
The Fifth Circuit ruled on Jan 6, in Cargill vs. Garland, that a plain reading of the statute made it clear bump stocks were not machine guns. And, even if they were, the rule of lenity would forbid them from allowing the criminal enforcement of a bump-stock ban. Lenity requires ambiguously constructed rules to be construed in a light most favorable to defendants.
There have been several challenges to the bump stock ban instituted by the ATF at Trump’s direction. In 2018, then-President Trump tweeted, “We will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.” The problem for the government is that the law doesn’t simply say they get to decide what a machine gun is. The law and regulations say that a machine gun fires continuously with a single trigger pull. Bump stocks allow rapid trigger pulling and re-setting, not continuous fire with a single pull. That’s why the ATF had, until Trump’s direction, never classified them as machine guns.
Bumps in the Road
Bump stocks are devices fitted to firearms to help induce rapid fire. They allow the stock and receiver to move independently of each other for a short distance, so the user may fire many more times than they otherwise could. As the Fifth Circuit wrote, “A bump stock is a firearm attachment that allows a shooter to harness the natural recoil of a semi-automatic weapon to quickly re-engage the trigger after firing, enabling him to shoot at an increased rate of speed.”
The devices were not widespread before Trump’s ban, as they can be expensive, significantly alter the appearance of guns, and by design, prevent accurate shooting. Nevertheless, they were demonized after Stephen Paddock used some guns equipped with bump stocks to murder 59 people in October of 2017 in the massacre at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay.
Donald Trump and the NRA vs. Gun rights
President Trump used the bump stock ban to appear to do “something” to curb gun violence. The NRA released a statement stating, “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” The problem for Mr. Trump and the NRA is that no new regulations were implemented. Trump simply directed the ATF to add bump stocks to the laws governing machine guns.
The 45th president’s reclassification had profound consequences for possessors of the devices, who woke up on March 23, 2018, as law-abiding citizens and went to bed as felons. There have been several court challenges to the change, and all have ultimately failed before now to reverse the ATF rule. The Supreme Court declined to hear any appeal, and it seemed all challenges were likely to fail. Enter Michael Cargill, an Army veteran and gun shop owner, who challenged the ban outside a Second Amendment basis. He lost at the district court level and an appeal from the circuit court. Then he asked for and received an en-banc review or a rehearing by the full complement of appellate judges in a circuit. That’s what this latest ruling represents. Unless and until the Supreme Court says otherwise, in the Fifth Circuit, which constitutes Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, it is not a crime to possess a bump stock.
Do you have an opinion about this article? We’d love to hear it! If you send your comments to [email protected], we might even publish your edited remarks in our new feature, LN Readers Speak Out. Remember to include the URL of the article along with your name, city, and state.
Please respect our republishing guidelines. Republication permission does not equal site endorsement. Click here.
Liberty Nation Today:
A Sneak Peek
Joe Biden’s State of the Union Malarkey - Old man screams at the sky about baggage fees. - Read Now!
Biden Bunch Boasting on Campaign Blitz - The president, vice president, and Cabinet members will crank out 30 events in two days. - Read Now!
Will Misinformation Remain a Potent Weapon for Progressives? - A mighty champion of the leftist-loving misinformation game has fallen. - Read Now!
Narratives Not Unity in Biden’s State of the Union - The president delivers a horse drawn up by committee. - Read Now!
Undetected Spy Balloon Reveals Dangerous Strategic Gap - Chinese balloons can carry devastating weapons. - Read Now!