The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) final rule on bump stocks, finding that the ATF overreached its authority. The decision in the Cargill v. Garland case found that the ATF bump stock ban was, simply put, unlawful.
The ATF has, in recent history, made numerous attempts to redefine and recategorize objects such as “receivers”, “firearms” and other commonly accepted nomenclature, including bump stocks. The court’s ruling was a refreshing exercise in common sense.
The judicial panel found that the definition of machine gun, as outlined in the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act of 1934, does not apply to bump stocks. Bump stocks do not constitute any component of a machine gun under the statutory definition, as the trigger is activated for each pull of the trigger. With that simple explanation, the panel vacated the lower Court’s decision and remanded it back down.
In order to be as clear as possible, the court utilized numerous pages of their decision to provide a technical primer on how firearms operate, with a simple one-paragraph analysis as to why bump stocks are not machine guns:
“A bump stock is an accessory that attaches to a semi-automatic weapon and assists the shooter to engage in bump firing. Bump firing, in turn, is a technique whereby a shooter uses a firearm’s natural recoil to quickly reengage the trigger, resulting in an increased rate of fire. It is possible to bump fire an ordinary semi-automatic rifle without any assisting device, but a bump stock makes the technique easier.”
The case challenged the ATF bump stock ban after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017. The new rule redefined bump stocks as machine guns under federal law, making them illegal to own without proper registration.
One of many arguments made by the plaintiff was that the ATF lacked the authority to make a rule on bump stocks, as the statute defining machine guns is unambiguous and requires no modification. The opinion suggests that the ruling has far-reaching implications for other legal battles related to gun laws, including ATF rules coming down the road in the very near future.