Tennessee Firearms Association Files Amicus Brief Opposing Bump Stock Ban

Photo- This Photo shows the Slide Fire Solutions SSAK-47-XRS-RH Bump Fire Stock mounted on a GP WASR-10/36 AK-47.

Photo Credit- WASR / CC

Published August 4, 2021

By John Harris – 

On August 2, 2021, Tennessee Firearms Association and 9 other similar state organizations filed an amicus brief in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to support a lawsuit by Gun Owners of America which seeks to have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)’s administrative reclassification of “bump stock” devices to be considered machineguns and thus contraband. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

In March 2021, a three judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a district court should have granted an injunction prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the ATF’s administrative “bump stock” ban. The Biden administration was unhappy with that outcome and filed for an “en banc” reconsideration in which all of the judges on the Sixth Circuit would rehear the case. A majority of the judges agreed that the case should be heard by the entire court and therefore issued an order setting aside the March 2021 panel decision. 

Gun Owners of America is the lead plaintiff in this action. However, there are many interested parties who are filing “friend of the court” which are also known as “amicus” briefs to support or oppose the issues in the action.

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TFA joined with Grass Roots North Carolina, Oregon Firearms Federation, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, Bama Carry, Arizona Citizens Defense League, Open Carry Texas, Iowa Firearms Coalition, New Jersey Second Amendment Society, and Oklahoma Second Amendment Association all to support the position taken by Gun Owners of America asking the entire Sixth Circuit to declare the ATF’s bump stock ban unconstitutional. 

While the briefing is extensive, the issue is basic civics – or should be. In our constitutional republic it is the role of the legislature to enact laws and the role of the administration to enforce the laws. The concept of “separation of powers” is a core component of a constitutional republic. The “separation of powers” doctrine requires that one branch, here the administrative branch, has no constitutional authority to do things that is the duty of another branch of government. 

In this instance, Congress defined the term “machinegun” in the 1934 National Firearms Act. The ATF is an administrative body. It has no constitutional authority to make policy, write statutes or change the definitions of words that are in statutes. The ATF has actually issued a number of letters over the years where it has concluded that a bump stock accessory is not itself a machinegun, as defined by Congress.

ATF has also concluded numerous times that the addition of a bump stock accessory does not convert a semi-automatic firearm into a machinegun based on the definition that was written by Congress. 

But in response to the LasVegas shooting, President Trump attacked the bump stock accessory. He directed the ATF to come up with a way to ban them and ATF tried. What ATF did was to issue a “rule” whereby it materially expanded the Congressional definition of a machinegun to include items and devices that ATF had repeatedly in the past concluded were not covered by the Congressional definition. 
Thus, in a nutshell, that is what this case is about. Can the administration, specifically ATF, either create regulations or come up with “interpretations” of existing statutes to expand those statutes to prohibit items or accessories that Congress did not and has not expressly prohibited. According to TFA, the answer should be no! 
TFA wants to thank those TFA members who made supplemental donations to help fund the cost of this appellate filing. It is increasingly the role of TFA to join in such cases as a necessary tool in defending our rights and, unfortunately, to force the administrations and even some in the legislatures to honor and respect our rights as projected by the 2nd Amendment. 

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About the Author:

John Harris is the Executive Director of The Tennessee Firearms Association. You can contact TFA here. You can join TFA here.

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