Bump stocks were first invented in the early 2000s. Soon after, the ATF concluded that mechanical bump stocks qualify as machine guns under the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act, but that non-mechanical bump stocks, which required the shooter to “apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand,” were not illegal machine guns. But following the Las Vegas shooting, the ATF purported to modify the definition of machine gun and stated that the statutory term “machinegun” “includes bump-stock-type devices.”

After the ATF published its final rule redefining machine guns in 2018, Michael Cargill, who had lawfully acquired two non-mechanical bump stocks, surrendered them to the ATF and then filed suit against the ATF. In his lawsuit, Cargill argued the ATF lacked authority “to promulgate the Final Rule because its interpretation of machinegun conflicts with the unambiguous statutory definition.” Among other arguments, Cargill also asserted that by defining a non-mechanical bump stock as “machinegun,” the ATF unconstitutionally exercised Congress’s legislative power.
A federal court rejected Cargill’s claims following a one-day trial. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held the ATF properly classified non-mechanical bump stocks as “machineguns.” Cargill then sought review by the full court of appeals and, on Friday, the majority of the 16 members of the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding the federal statutory definition of machine guns “unambiguously fails to cover non-mechanical bump stocks,” and that to criminalize such bump stocks, Congress must act legislatively. 

In striking the ATF’s rule that non-mechanical bump stocks qualified as “machineguns,” the Fifth Circuit focused on the statutory language Congress used in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act to define “machinegun” and the mode of operation of a non-mechanical bump stock. Specifically, the court stressed that to qualify as a machine gun under the statute, the weapon must shoot automatically more than one shot “by a single function of the trigger.” But because a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a non-mechanical bump stock only fires one shot each time the trigger functions, the Fifth Circuit concluded it did not qualify under the statute as a machine gun.

Because the ATF’s redefinition of “machinegun” conflicted with Congress’s statutory definition of that term, the Fifth Circuit’s en banc decision held it need not decide whether the ATF’s rule was “an exercise of legislative power, in violation of the Constitution’s vesting of all such power in Congress. U.S. Const. art. I, § 1.” That the federal appellate court in Cargill sidestepped the separation of powers question, renders the decision of limited value, and does little to limit the constitutionally ungirded authority of the administrative state.

— Margot Cleveland in “Court To ATF Gun-Grabbers: Bump Stocks Aren’t Machine Guns And You Don’t Make The Rules

One thought on “THE FEDERALIST: ‘Court To ATF Gun-Grabbers: Bump Stocks Aren’t Machine Guns And You Don’t Make The Rules’”
  1. Let us hope the courts are as favorable to us here in the People’s Republic of Illinois as they have been elsewhere. This latest attack on law-abiding gun owners must not be allowed to stand. My hope is that they ‘shot the moon’ so sloppily here, that their efforts will be used to roll back almost everything Illinois has inflicted upon us over the last couple of decades – including the FOID.

    Has anyone received their new ‘combined’ FOID + CCL yet? It doesn’t have an expiration date printed on it. It’s useless for presenting to a gun store or online seller as an ID. ISP is sending out e-mails saying that this card replaces your separate cards, and you are supposed to destroy your old cards when you get the combined. Nothing doing. Seems impossible that someone failed to notice this before these are being sent out, which makes me wonder if it was deliberate to impede the ability for Illinois citizens to buy guns or ammo. Not that our government would be capable of such an act, of course.

    I want a divorce from Crook County.

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