Sixth Circuit: ATF Cannot Classify Bump Stocks as Machine Guns

Senior Sales Staff Mark Warner shows a bump stock installed on an AR-15 rifle at Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virgina, on October 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

On March 25, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled against the ATF’s December 26, 2018, rule declaring bump stocks to be machine guns and prohibiting ownership of said stocks.

NPR reported the prohibition against ownership went into effect on March 26, 2019.

A case against the ban was filed in the United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division, on December 26, 2018 — the same day that the ATF’s bump stock rule was put forward. Plaintiffs contended the ATF could not declare bump stocks to be machine guns and sought a preliminary injunction against the ATF rule.

The District Court ruled in favor of the ATF, finding that the agency was entitled to Chevron deference and thereby able to classify bump stocks as machine guns.

The case was then appealed to the Sixth Circuit and, on Thursday, Judge Alice M. Batchelder, a well-respected originalist judge in the mold of Justice Clarence Thomas, handed down a majority opinion against the ATF’s interpretive powers.

The Sixth Circuit’s decision was two t0 one.

Batchelder noted how important Chevron deference was to the District Court decision:

After finding that the ATF’s interpretation was entitled to Chevron deference, the district court held that the Final Rule’s classification of bump stocks as machine guns was “a permissible interpretation” of § 5845(b). Accordingly, the court concluded that Plaintiffs-Appellants were unlikely to succeed on the merits and denied the preliminary injunction.

Batchelder then ruled against applying the Chevron deference in this case:

Because an agency’s interpretation of a criminal statute is not entitled to Chevron deference and because the ATF’s Final Rule is not the best interpretation of § 5845(b), we REVERSE the district court’s judgment and REMAND for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Attorney General Merrick Garland can appeal the case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Otherwise, the Sixth Court’s ruling marks the end of the ATF’s regulatory ban on bump stocks.

The case is Gun Owners of America v. Garland, No. 19-1298 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.

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