You may remember in late March of 2021, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that bump stocks were not, in fact, machine guns. The ruling itself was based on the ATF’s bump stock regulation not being entitled to “Chevron Deference,”; a legal doctrine that holds that a court may not substitute its own opinion in the place of reasonable interpretation made by an administrative agency. Once this was decided, Gun Owners of America made the case that the bump stock does not meet the legal definition of a “machine gun.” The 6th Circuit then ruled in favor of Gun Owners of America and said that bump stocks are not, in fact, machine guns.
Well, it looks like after an En Blanc session (a session where the entire court reviews and votes instead of a single judge or smaller panel), the 6th Circuit has held an 8-8 tie vote leaving the bump stock ban in place.
This ruling is a double-edged sword for gun owners. The ban allows the ATF to prosecute Rare Breed Firearms for their FRT or “Forced Reset Trigger,” turning law-abiding gun owners into felons overnight. It also currently lays the legal foundation for regulating all semiautomatic firearms under the NFA, which we know is the stated goal of gun-control groups and advocates like the once-nominated almost ATF Director David Chipman. On the other hand, if the Supreme Court can overturn the regulation, the ATF will have little power to try and regulate semiautomatic firearms without Congress.
For those unfamiliar with bump stocks, they are devices that use the force of the firearm’s recoil to “bump” the trigger allowing for a faster rate of fire. But to quote the honorable Judge Batchelder in the 6th Circuit’s opinion in March of 2021; “A bump stock may change how the pull of the trigger is accomplished, but it does not change the fact that the semiautomatic firearm shoots only one shot for each pull of the trigger. With or without a bump stock, a semiautomatic firearm is capable of firing only a single shot for each pull of the trigger.”
Consider the legal implications of regulating an item that does not convert a semiautomatic firearm into a machine gun. The ATF is regulating these items because they seem to “speed up” the rate of fire. But if you are a disciplined shooter, even a heavy “mil-spec” trigger can be fired at a “fast” speed.
See where this is headed?
This is why it’s so important to see the bump stock “ban” as a gateway to more regulation from the federal government. Using the bump-stock ban as a precedent, the ATF will eventually require NFA compliance for all semiautomatic rifles.
Don’t just take it from me. Here’s a quote from gun-control activist and former ATF director nominee David Chipman: “The danger posed by firearms that enable shooters to continue firing in this manner is the same reason Congress chose to include machine guns in the NFA when it was originally enacted: these weapons enable a shooter to fire many bullets very quickly. Semiautomatic firearms equipped with large-capacity magazines do not, however, fall under the NFA. The NFA refers to machine guns as those firearms that discharge more than one shot “without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” Firearms developed since the NFA and equipped with large capacity magazines rarely require manual reloading, but they can expel a lot of ammunition in a brief period of time. They do so by allowing a trigger to be pulled many times very easily and ensuring that there is almost always another bullet ready to go. Despite this, large-capacity magazines and semiautomatic firearms equipped with them (sometimes called “assault weapons”) are not regulated under the NFA, even though they pose an incredible danger to our communities.”
It’s very clear from this quote that David Chipman and his friends in the gun-control lobby have an obvious objective. The bump-stock ban is their legal path to this goal of complete regulation of all semiautomatic firearms.
But don’t despair! The tie vote from the 6th Circuit’s En Blanc session allows for a power move from Gun Owners of America. They can now appeal their case to the Supreme Court.
Considering that recently, the Supreme Court has signaled a willingness to hear 2nd Amendment cases. In November, the court heard oral arguments for NYSRPA v. Bruen, a challenge to New York’s “May Issue” Concealed Carry Permitting Regime that allows a select few to carry a handgun only after proving an “atypical need” or a “good and substantial reason.”
This case may likely get its day in the Supreme Court, and hopefully, the Justices will see the clear evidence that a “single function of the trigger” means semiautomatic. So today, the bump-stock ban holds; we’ll see what happens when the Supreme Court hears the arguments.