‘If the bump stock converts an AR-15 into a machinegun, then AR-15s could be next on the chopping block…’
But after a controversial decree banning bump stocks that gun advocates said violated both the Constitution and all legal precedent, the Trump administration now faces friendly fire from conservatives seeking injunctive relief.
“[I]f anyone thought the election of Donald Trump would put the Second Amendment community on ‘Easy Street,’ this apparently will not be the case,” said Erich Pratt, executive director for Gun Owners of America, in an e-mail to supporters. “But we have fought gun-grabbers in dire circumstances before.”
GOA and several other pro-firearm stakeholders filed suit Wednesday in the Western Michigan District court challenging the recent policy change in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that would reclassify bump stocks as fully-automatic weaponry.
“ATF’s re-classification of bump stocks as machineguns is a political decision designed to circumvent the legislative process, not a legal one based on any technical evaluation,” said the complaint. “It ignores the plain text of the statute, and all prior ATF determinations and opinions.”
The plaintiffs contended that Trump’s decision was based solely on political pressure following incidents such as last year’s Las Vegas shooting at the Mandalay Bay hotel, where murderer Stephen Paddock was believed to have used guns that included bump-stock attachments to massacre 58 concert-goers in a barrage of rapid fire.
However, the plaintiffs said, “The classification of bump stocks as machine guns is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, obfuscates the way bump stocks operate, and reaches an irrational decision, unsupportable in either law or fact.”
While bump-stocks do, in the hands of trained users, permit a quicker firing technique, they do not change the guns mechanically into fully automatic weapons since the trigger mechanism still functions the same, requiring a separate push for each shot.
“Bump stocks are nothing more than a type of firearm stock (usually plastic) that fits loosely over the firearm, allowing the firearm to reciprocate back-and-forth freely,” said the suit.
Pratt warned in his email that the ATF ban, if it were allowed to take effect, would set in motion what might be an alarming precedent.
“If the bump stock converts an AR-15 into a machine gun, then AR-15s could be next on the chopping block,” he said. “After all, there are other items which can help bump fire an AR-15: rubber bands, belt loops, etc.”
The suit seeking the injunction was filed the same day as the new policy was published in the Federal Registry, giving bump-stock owners until March 26—without further court intervention—to destroy their devices or turn them in to a local ATF bureau.
“Unless you destroy or surrender your bump stock within 90 days (with no compensation whatsoever) and sign a form saying you waive all your constitutional rights, the ATF is claiming that you are a felon—subject to 10 years in prison,” Pratt said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., responded to the initial policy change and GOA lawsuit by saying in a Washington Post opinion piece that legislation was also needed to reinforce the executive order.
“[L]et’s not celebrate too quickly,” wrote Feinstein. “Presidents can rescind regulations just as easily as they create them, and in this case, the bump stock ban will likely be tied up in court for years.”
Pratt said filing the suit in Michigan ensured that it could move through the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has proven itself to be supportive of gun rights, perhaps en route to a Supreme Court challenge.
In the meantime, plaintiffs hoped the injunction would be enough to block gun-confiscation efforts and allow due process to take its course.
“You may or may not own a bump stock,” said Pratt. “You may or may not like bump stocks. But you can bet that the goal of gun grabbers is, ultimately, not just banning bump stocks, but, rather, putting ‘points on the board’ toward its goal of banning civilian ownership of all firearms.”