On Tuesday, August 2, 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Motion for Leave to File an Amicus Brief submitted to the Court one day earlier by America’s Future along with nine other nonprofit organizations in Cargill v Merrick B. Garland, U.S. Attorney General; U.S. Department of Justice; Steven Dettelbach, in his official capacity as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”); Bureau of ATF (5th Cir. Dkt. No. 20-51016)
Central to this case is an ATF regulation known as the “Bump Stock Rule.” The “Bump Stock Rule” came about in the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas outdoor concert mass shooting, which left at least 58 people dead and hundreds injured. The shooter in that case had altered his semi-automatic rifle using bump stocks, which enhanced the rapidity of ammunition discharge although did not change the fact that each pull of the trigger produces only one shot fired. Notwithstanding, the ATF sought to ban ownership of semi-automatic guns modified with bump stock by redefining the term “machinegun” to include this version of a gun. By redefining machinegun in this manner, criminal statutes suddenly cast a much wider net and have much sharper teeth as ownership or the use of these altered guns are classified as a felony.
In this case, the Plaintiff, Mr. Cargill asserts his Second Amendment right to bear arms and requests court intervention and relief from this administrative agency regulation that unconstitutionally infringes his Second Amendment rights, and at the same time, violates separation of powers through Executive Branch overreach. It is the legislature that creates statute and statutory definitions. No matter, it should not be left in the hands of a bureaucratic group of unelected government employees and contractors to create or redefine laws, particularly laws that criminalize activity. Here, the Executive Branch did not just encroach upon another branch’s authority, but rather seems to trample all over Congressional legislative powers.
This case is not the first of its kind to go through the courts. On March 25, 2021, a panel of three judges from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this ATF regulation was unconstitutional. Delivering the well-reasoned majority opinion, Judge Alice M. Batchelder stated,
“A bump stock may change how the pull of the trigger is accomplished, but it does not change the fact that the semiautomatic firearm shoots only one shot for each pull of the trigger,” she stated. “With or without a bump stock, a semiautomatic firearm is capable of firing only a single shot for each pull of the trigger.” Judge Batchelder went on to explain that though deference is generally given to regulations created by administrative agencies based on an agency’s interpretation of statutes was never meant to embolden agencies of the Executive Branch, manned by contractors and unelected employees of the government, with authority to create or “read into laws” criminal statutes.
Following this Sixth Circuit panel decision, a rehearing was granted and on December 3, 2021, an evenly divided Sixth Circuit en banc, i.e. full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals bench, opinion vacated the panel opinion – sending this case right up to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) where it now rests awaiting resolution.
The procedural history of the case at bar, while robust, follows lockstep with the above-mentioned Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case and is currently scheduled to be reheard en banc on September 13, 2022.
America’s Future defends the constitutional rights of Americans. Our Amicus brief sets forth comprehensive analyses opposing the Bump Stock rule because it unconstitutionally violates not only the Second Amendment but glaringly contravenes American principles under our separation of powers doctrine – one of our greatest tools against tyranny.
Editor’s Note: See our July 7, 2022 newsletter providing details about Motions for Leave, including circumstances necessitating submission of the same to a court.