Boar Down!

Herschel Smith · 30 Oct 2022 · 9 Comments

Readers may have noticed I was absent the last several days.  It was a good time away.  A very good buddy and neighbor of mine, Robert, and I went hunting courtesy of the fine folks with Williams Hunting in South Carolina. I was shooting a 6mm ARC rifle with a Grendel Hunter upper, Aero Precision lower, Amend2 magazines, Brownells scope mount, Radian Raptor charging handle, Nikon Black scope, and a Viking Tactics sling.  I have no complaints about the gun.  It's at least a 1 MOA gun…… [read more]

Fifth Circuit Destroys Bump Stock Ban

BY Herschel Smith
3 weeks, 4 days ago

It’s good to see this one go down in the flames it should.  Trump and the ATF should be ashamed.  But I suspect both would defend it to this day and beyond.

Stephen Stamboulieh sends this my way a couple of days ago, but since then it has been covered by others (e.g., see Reason here and here, and reddit/Firearms here and here, and also, never forget the NRA’s position on bump stocks).

This is a very well-written and well-researched opinion and points out the distinction between a function of the trigger and function of the shooter.

Here is the opinion.

BLUF:

  1. A bump stock does not turn a semiautomatic firearm into a machine gun by the statutory definition of machine gun.
  2. Even if the Fifth Circuit is wrong, the ATF lacked the authority to make this change.
  3. We have no business deferring to the authority of the federal regulators to make this determination since there is no lack of clarity on this issue.  The issue is perfectly clear – a rifle outfitted with a bump stock is not a machine gun.

Elsewhere, the ATF is becoming tepid over their upcoming rulemaking on unserialized firearms.

Yet the move, which the Justice Department described as a clarification of the regulation, is not without risk. Because the rule was created through executive action, rather than a statute validated by Congress, it has given companies confidence that they can keep selling individual gun parts.

Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss possible litigation, said the new guidance would almost certainly be challenged in federal court on the grounds that it violates the Gun Control Act of 1968, which allows people to build firearms for their personal use without submitting to background checks or applying serial numbers.

Their upcoming rulemaking on unserialized firearms not only violates prior statutory law, it now suffers from the Fifth Circuit decision on bump stocks, which says that the ATF lacked the authority to inflict this new regulation on the American public.

Queue up the same thing for unserialized firearms.  And a thousand other lawsuits.

The only problem with the Fifth Circuit decision is that it applies only to states controlled by the Fifth Circuit.

U.S. Supreme Court again spurns challenge to gun ‘bump stock’ ban

BY PGF
2 months, 2 weeks ago

Source:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away another challenge to a federal ban imposed under former President Donald Trump on devices called “bump stocks” that enable a semi-automatic weapon to fire like a machine gun.

The justices declined to review an appeal by a group of firearms dealers and individuals in Minnesota, Texas and Kentucky after a lower court rejected their argument that the government had violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment “takings clause” by effectively taking their private property without just compensation.

Trump’s administration moved to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns, which are forbidden under U.S. law, in a rare firearms control measure prompted by a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. The Supreme Court in 2019 declined to block the ban from going into effect. The justices last month rejected appeals by a Utah gun lobbyist and firearms rights groups of lower court rulings upholding the ban as a reasonable interpretation of a federal law prohibiting machine gun possession.

Having banned the bump stock, now the BATF is coming for arm braces. Next, it’ll be the six-position AR stock. If this isn’t stopped, gunstocks of every kind will be outlawed by fiat. Perhaps you say that’s ridiculous? But if we’re playing chess and not checkers, it sounds like a “reasonable” pathway to outlawing rifles altogether.

To quote WoG,  “And thanks again, Donald.”

ATF will Lose Bump Stock Case before Supreme Court

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 3 weeks ago

On the one hand, technically, I understand his points about why the previous two cases were not granted certiorari.

On the other hand, while I understand why he makes his prediction, he tends to be over-optimistic in my opinion.

I predict exactly the opposite. I predict that if it ever makes it to the SDCOTUS, it will lose.

Supreme Court To Deal With Bump Stocks?

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 2 weeks ago

Source.

… two legal challenges to the Trump administration’s prohibition are pending at the Supreme Court – including one that has been rescheduled for consideration 20 times. The lack of a decision about whether or not the court will hear the litigation has led to speculation among experts who follow the issue closely that the court’s 6-3 conservative majority may not agree on how to proceed.

The court twice declined emergency requests from gun groups to delay implementation of the ban in 2019. And it declined to hear a similar challenge in 2020.

“The six conservatives on the court right now aren’t really on the same page about guns as much as people think they are,” said Dru Stevenson, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. Some in the court’s conservative wing, he said, “might be afraid to take the case if they’re not sure that they’re going to get their way.”

In addition to once again raising the issue of guns at the nation’s highest court months after it decided a landmark Second Amendment case, the new litigation also delves into how much power federal agencies have to create regulations when the law those rules are based on is unclear. Conservatives for years have sought to limit that agency discretion and their arguments seem to be gaining traction with the high court.

[ … ]

Feldman points to another reason why the Supreme Court may have been slow to take up the issue of bump stocks: So far, gun rights groups have been losing in appeals courts. The justices often like to see a disagreement in circuit courts – known as a “circuit split” – before wading in to resolve a dispute and provide guidance to lower courts on a thorny legal question.

“Right now,” Feldman said, “there is no circuit split.”

But that may soon change. In a separate case, the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has scheduled arguments in a challenge to the bump stock ban for Tuesday. Meanwhile, at least one of the justices has signaled a receptivity to the arguments being made by the gun rights groups.

The ATF, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in 2020, “used to tell everyone that bump stocks don’t qualify as ‘machineguns.’ Now it says the opposite. The law hasn’t changed, only an agency’s interpretation of it.

“Why should courts,” Gorsuch asked, “defer to such bureaucratic pirouetting?”

Good question.  Here’s the answer.  They shouldn’t.

The bump stock decision was perhaps the worst mistake Trump ever made because of the precedent it set.  I don’t have a bump stock, but that isn’t the point.  The right to own one without interference from the FedGov is enshrined in the 2A.

But more importantly, with all due respect to Justice Gorsuch and his observation on pirouetting (which is correct since the ATF has taken contradictory positions on this as they have on many other things), this is about the question whether a bureaucratic organization has the authority and power to write law.

Here’s the answer.  They don’t.  Beyond that, even the ban on machine guns, I claim, runs afoul of the 2A.  So if the ATF had always taken the position that bump stocks met the definition of machine gun and they had never pirouetted on this issue, it still doesn’t make it right.  Pirouetting isn’t what makes this sinful.  It’s the failure to follow the constitution.

However, with the law and order justices, and also with the progressives, I doubt this issue will find traction in the SCOTUS and I have serious doubts they will overturn this ridiculous rule and put the ATF in its place.

So you see, if they don’t overturn it, the conservatives want to have their cake and eat it too.  On the one hand, they want to disgorge the authority of the bureaucrats from making law (de facto authority because they’ve done it unchallenged), but on the other hand, when it comes to bump stocks their Ox may be gored.  So they will find another route to do their disgorgement of the controllers if they ever do it all.

Will the Supreme Court finally deal the death blow to the bump stock ban?  Color me skeptical.

Sixth Circuit Bump Stock Ruling

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 7 months ago

Here it is.

A majority of the Judges of this Court in regular active service has voted for rehearing en banc of this case. Sixth Circuit Rule 35(b) provides as follows: The effect of the granting of a hearing en banc shall be to vacate the previous opinion and judgment of this court, to stay the mandate and to restore the case on the docket sheet as a pending appeal. Accordingly, it is ORDERED, that the previous decision and judgment of this court are vacated, the mandate is stayed, and this case is restored to the docket as a pending appeal.

Short and to the point.  This isn’t over yet.  It shouldn’t be.  It was an awful usurpation of power, and a stupid thing for Trump to do.

Court Rules A Bump Stock Is Not A Machine Gun

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 10 months ago

GOA.

Springfield, VA – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, which had denied GOA’s motion for a preliminary injunction on bump stocks. Gun Owners of America is seeking an injunction to prevent ATF from implementing a final rule incorrectly classifying bump stocks as machineguns under federal law.

This case was brought by Gun Owners of America (GOA), Gun Owners Foundation (GOF), the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), Matt Watkins, Tim Harmsen of the Military Arms Channel, and GOA’s Texas Director, Rachel Malone.

Dave Hardy has additional details.

“Notwithstanding the ATF’s frequent reversals on major policy issues, we understand that the Court would consider the bureaucrats at the ATF as experts in firearms technology. But that technical knowledge is inapposite to the question of what should be criminally punished and what should not.”

“Consistent with our precedent and mandated by separation-of-powers and fair-notice concerns, we hold that an administering agency’s interpretation of a criminal statute is not entitled to Chevron deference. Consequently, the district court erred by finding that the ATF’s Final Rule, which interpreted the meaning of a machine gun as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b), was entitled to Chevron deference. And because we find that “single function of the trigger” refers to the mechanical process of the trigger, we further hold that a bump stock cannot be classified as a machine gun because a bump stock does not enable a semiautomatic firearm to fire more than one shot each time the trigger is pulled. Accordingly, we find that Plaintiffs-Appellants are likely to prevail on the merits and that that their motion for an injunction should have been granted.”

Here is the ruling.  Occasionally a court gets it right.  One may suppose that the DoJ/ATF knew the weakness of using executive orders to supplant federal law.  Any case that has hinged on ownership of a bump stock should now be appealed.

Cincinnati’s Bump-Stock Ban Overturned

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 2 months ago

News from Ohio.

CINCINNATI (FOX19) – An Ohio appeals court dealt another blow Tuesday to Cincinnati’s bump-stock ban.

The appellate judges upheld a Hamilton County trial court’s 2019 ruling against the ban, reasoning the bump-stocks — i.e. trigger activators — are essential to the function of at least some guns and therefore cannot be regulated without violating the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.

Read the ruling here.

Congratulations to Buckeye Firearms Foundation and Ohioans for Concealed Carry.  We can all be thankful for small victories.

First Bump Stock Ban Case Falters In Court

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 2 months ago

News from Texas.

The first case testing a Trump administration edict outlawing bump stocks failed during a brief federal bench trial in Tuesday in Houston.

A federal prosecutor withdrew the unique charge before the trial began for a Houston man accused of owning the device. However, the defense was prepared to call an ATF expert to testify that bump stocks, attachments that cause a rifle to fire more rapidly, do not render a semiautomatic gun a machine gun.

Senior U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller convicted Ajay Dhingra, 44, on three remaining counts that he lied when he purchased a handgun, rifle and ammunition, and illegally possessed a weapon as a person who had been committed for mental illness.

Experts had conflicting views on the matter, said defense attorney Tom Berg. But Rick Vasquez, a retired ATF agent and firearms expert, would have told the court the bump stock did not meet the statutory definition of a machine gun. The prosecution dismissed case, he said, because the government couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt the bump stock was a machine gun.

Prosecutors don’t indiscriminately drop cases.  They do it if they think they have a bad case and a non-trivial chance of losing, coupled with high consequences of a loss.

This continues a pattern of cases where the ATF feels that continued prosecution of a case could possibly cause a loss in court and a restriction of their ability to enforce other regulations.

It’s good to see this loss, as the bump stock ruling should never have even seen the light of day.

Trump’s Bump Stock Ban Is Under Fire From His Own Judicial Appointees

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

Reason.

The lawyers at the Department of Justice (DOJ) came up with a new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulation “to clarify that [bump stocks] are ‘machineguns’ as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968” because “such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.” The federal ban on machine guns, in other words, would be interpreted by the Trump administration to ban bump stocks too.

That unilateral executive action has now come under fire from two federal judges appointed by Trump himself.

On March 2, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch issued a statement respecting the denial of certiorari in Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The executive branch “used to tell everyone that bump stocks don’t qualify as ‘machineguns.’ Now it says the opposite.” Yet “the law hasn’t changed, only an agency’s interpretation of it,” Gorsuch complained. “How, in all of this, can ordinary citizens be expected to keep up….And why should courts, charged with the independent and neutral interpretation of the laws Congress has enacted, defer to such bureaucratic pirouetting?”

Gorsuch wasn’t alone. On March 30, Judge Brantley Starr, a Trump appointee who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, issued a blistering opinion in Lane v. United States that basically accused the DOJ of ignoring foundational constitutional principles in its defense of Trump’s bump stock ban.

The Justice Department justified the ban as a lawful exercise of the “federal police power,” Starr observed. But “the federal government forgot the Tenth Amendment and the structure of the Constitution itself,” which grants no such power to the feds. “It is concerning that the federal government believes it swallowed the states whole. Assuming the federal government didn’t abolish the states to take their police power,” Starr wrote, he had no choice but to deny the government’s motion to dismiss the case. He then tartly added: “The Court will allow the government to try again and explain which enumerated power justifies the federal regulation.”

Complaining isn’t the same thing as overturning and nullifying because it was, is, and always will be, unconstitutional.

Judges and justices using their opinions to bitch about things, even if that’s all the power they have if they’re aren’t in the majority, is extremely weak tea.

Supreme Court Leaves Bump Stock Ban In Place

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

CNN.

The Supreme Court left in place on Monday President Donald Trump’s ban on bump stocks, turning away an appeal from owners of the device and gun rights groups.

Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives banned bump stock devices — attachments that essentially allow shooters to fire semiautomatic rifles continuously with one pull of the trigger.
A group of bump stock owners and Second Amendment groups sought to challenge how the administration went about banning the devices.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed to the court by Trump, wrote a statement saying he agrees the current case should not be heard and that the court was correct not to intervene, but he was concerned with how the lower court handled the issue.
“Justice Gorsuch’s separate opinion isn’t about the merits of the bump stocks rule, but rather whether the lower court applied the correct standard of review in considering those merits. The court’s denial here suggests that the justices are willing to let lower court litigation over the controversial Trump administration rule run its course before deciding if — and how — to intervene,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Here is what Gorsuch wrote.

The law hasn’t changed, only an agency’s interpretation of it. And these days it sometimes seems agencies change their statutory interpretations almost as often as elections change administrations. How, in all this, can ordinary citizens be expected to keep up—required not only to conform their conduct to the fairest reading of the law they might expect from a neutral judge, but forced to guess whether the statute will be declared ambiguous; to guess again whether the agency’s initial interpretation of the law will be declared “reasonable”; and to guess again whether a later and opposing agency interpretation will also be held “reasonable”? And why should courts, charged with the independent and neutral interpretation of the laws Congress has enacted, defer to such bureaucratic pirouetting?

Despite these concerns, I agree with my colleagues that the interlocutory petition before us does not merit review. The errors apparent in this preliminary ruling might yet be corrected before final judgment. Further, other courts of appeals are actively considering challenges to the same regulation. Before deciding whether to weigh in, we would benefit from hearing their considered judgments—provided, of course, that they are not afflicted with the same problems. But waiting should not be mistaken for lack of concern.

His was the dissenting opinion, the only “justice” who expressed any problems with it all.  And if the Supreme Court had heard the case and assigned it to Gorsuch to write the opinion, he could have spent less time declaring the whole thing unconstitutional.

Thus, the Supreme Court has no balls.


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