The executive director of Gun Owners of America says he’s pleased with court arguments so far in the group’s lawsuit against the U.S. government’s ban of bump stocks.
In U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a judge is expected within days to deliver his decision on a request for a temporary order blocking the ban.
The devices, which attach to rifles, were largely familiar only to gun collectors and enthusiasts until the horrific mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, where an attacker apparently used one to speed up the firing of his rifle.
On Oct. 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock armed himself with dozens of guns, took a room on the Las Vegas strip and opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest music festival. He fired more than 1,100 rounds, killing 58 and leaving 851 injured.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded by banning the devices, which prompted GOA to sue.
“The ban is so poorly written that it threatens the legality of AR-15s and other constitutionally protected firearms,” Erich Pratt explained in his report on the court case.
He said the group is seeking an order to prevent enforcement of the ban or “hundreds of thousands of innocent bump stock owners are … in danger of becoming felons.”
The GOA case was presented by attorney Rob Olson, who pointed out to the judge that the ATF previously had said bump stocks are legal.
Pratt explained one of the points of argument was the doctrine of “Chevron deference.” It essentially calls on courts to give leeway to federal agencies when they want to define or redefine rules and regulations.
“Olson consistently made the point that the ATF did NOT deserve deference … that the agency was misapplying the federal statute regarding bump stocks … and, more importantly, that the ATF was effectively changing the statutory definition of what a machine gun is,” Pratt reported.
The lawyer also explained to the court that a bump stock does not allow an uninterrupted automatic cycle of fire like a machine gun. It allows repeated semi-automatic firing.
“Olson noted that while an untrained shooter could fire an automatic weapon with one hand – by simply pulling the trigger back – no person could repeatedly bump fire a semi-automatic weapon with just one hand,” he said.
Pratt explained that with a bump stock, the shooter creates the bump fire effect, which is a technique.
“But that’s not the case with a machine gun. A person who has never touched a gun could easily fire an automatic weapon because it’s the internal mechanism that actually allows repeated rounds to be fired ‘automatically,’” he said.
He said GOA “has repeatedly warned that the ATF’s ban on bump stocks can be easily used by a future anti-gun administration to ban most, if not all, semi-automatic rifles.”
“Olson repeated this warning to the judge and noted that the threat to AR-15s would inextricably follow from these regulations.”
The lawyer explained that a bump stock isn’t the only equipment that will produce that effect, and there are “household items that can be used to bump fire an AR-15 – such as, rubber bands, belt loops, etc.”
“If these regulations are eventually allowed to stand, gun owners need to beware,” he warned. “Don’t be surprised if the ATF – say, under a President Kamala Harris administration — deems that any homeowner who possesses both AR-15s and rubber bands has committed a felony because he or she has ‘constructively intent’ to build a machine gun.”