The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans struck down the ban on Friday in a 13-3 decision, saying that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) had overstepped its authority in the ban.
The ATF had banned bump stocks in 2018, at the behest of then-President Donald Trump, reinterpreting the terms “single function of the trigger” and “automatically” to make bump stocks illegal under existing federal law. The ATF’s new definitions effectively moved guns with bump stocks into the illegal machine gun category.
A bump stock is a device that can be used with a semi-automatic rifle to mimic an automatic weapon.
“A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of ‘machinegun’ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,” said Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod in the lead opinion.
Rich Samp, an attorney for the man who sued the government after he was forced to get rid of his bump stocks, said the case was not about gun control, but about who has the authority to set gun laws.
— Michael Cargill (@michaeldcargill) January 6, 2023
“This case is not about gun control. It is instead about who has the constitutional prerogative to change the criminal law if changes are warranted,” Samp stated. “The current statute, adopted in 1986, defines ‘machinegun’ in a manner that does not encompass non-mechanical bump stocks. It is unlawful for a prosecutorial entity like ATF to rewrite existing law without authorization from Congress. Any change in gun-control laws must emanate from Congress.”
The 5th Circuit’s decision could mean a potential Supreme Court showdown for the future of the regulation, which has not been struck down by other circuit courts.
The Gun Owners of America, a group that has also sued to overturn the ban, praised the decision of the court, saying the fight over bump stocks was crucial to defending the Second Amendment.
“The fight on bump stocks is CRITICAL to defending all semiautomatic weapons from an arbitrary ban AND against the Biden ATF’s latest attacks on gun owners AND will help defend Forced Reset Triggers,” the group said on Twitter.
According to the Associated Press, a lower court will now make the next decision on where the case goes next.