Tennessee Firearms Association Seeks To Intervene In Federal Case Involving Overreach By ATF When It Redefined A Bump Stock As A Machine Gun.
Photo: Bump Stock
Photo Credit: atf.gov
Published July 21, 2021
By John Harris [The Tennessee Firearms Association] –
On March 25, 2021, a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of Gun Owners of America v. Garland in which the court held that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), as part of the administration, lacked the constitutional authority to change the definition that Congress had created for a machinegun when it enacted the National Firearms Act.
The ATF had issued a regulation in which it disregarded numerous prior agency findings that bump stocks were not machine guns and in the new regulation it took the administrative position that bump stocks were machine guns.
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Since substantially all bump stocks were made after May of 1986, they therefore constituted devices that civilians could not own. The effect of GOA v. Garland was that the BATF redefinition was not to be applied in the states within the Sixth Circuit which includes Tennessee.
On June 25, 2021, a majority of all judges in the Sixth Circuit voted to rehear the case “en banc” which means that the opinion of the 3 judge panel was set aside and the entire case would be considered and decided by all judges acting together.
Tennessee Firearms Association plans to join GOA in the support of this litigation and will seek to be added as a party to this appeal in order to represent Tennesseans.
In doing so, it is possible that TFA would be the lead party on an amicus brief that will be filed the first week of August, 2021. We are working with GOA and law firms that handle this kind of proceeding on a regular basis.
This is NOT a battle over whether bump stocks are good ideas. This is a battle over the power of the BATF to make “interpretations” of federal law and whether and to what extent those interpretations are binding on the courts.
Two of the circuits which have upheld the bump stock ban have done so almost entirely on what is referred to as “Chevron deference,” which is a made-up doctrine where courts defer to an agency’s interpretation of statutes if the agency is charged with implementing the law.
The Sixth Circuit noted that while that may apply in a civil regulatory context such as perhaps EPA regulations, it does not apply to the criminal code and the gun laws are enforced in this context as part of the federal criminal code.
The issue of whether federal courts will defer to BATF interpretations of federal statutes is huge. BATF has created huge volumes of almost unmanageable regulations and interpretations of federal gun laws on issues including what constitutes a prohibited person classification, what constitutes a rifle or pistol, what constitutes a machine gun and what constitutes “willful” for purposes of revoking federal firearms licenses.
If these interpretations do not receive any “Chevron” deference from courts, then it is possible that many of the strained interpretations that BATF creates and imposes may have substantially less if any legal consequence.
This issue, if not this case, is likely headed to the United States Supreme Court. TFA members can make a difference in getting it there.
TFA request that members make a donation to the cause on the TFA website.
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