CINCINNATI, OH –-(Ammoland.com)-With three hours left in the deadline, the federal government filed a petition for a rehearing en banc of Gun Owners of America V. Garland. The government asked the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to agree to rehear the case.
Gun Owners of America V. Garland centers around the ATF’s (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) decision to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns. The move to make a sliding piece of plastic and fully automatic firearm came after a mass murder at a country music festival in Las Vegas. The authorities said the killer used a bump stock to simulate automatic gunfire.
Gun Owners of America argued that bump stocks are not machine guns because, under ATF’s own definition, a machine is a gun the expels multiple rounds with a “single function of the trigger.” A bump stock doesn’t change how the trigger works in a firearm. Each pull of the trigger only fires a single round; therefore doesn’t change a semi-automatic rifle to a fully automatic gun.
The regulation reads:
“the term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”
The panel of three judges from the Sixth Circuit Court ruled that a firearm equipped with a bump stock does not meet the definition of a machine by a margin of two to one.
The Sixth Circuit Court said: “With or without a bump stock, a semiautomatic firearm is capable of firing only a single shot for each pull of the trigger and is unable to fire again until the trigger is released, and the hammer of the firearm is reset.”
The government argued that the ATF had Chevron deference. Chevron deference defers to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute. The government argued that since the regulation wasn’t clear, the ATF could determine what is and isn’t a machine gun. The panel of judges also denied the ATF claim that it was entitled to Chevron deference.
The panel ruled: “Chevron deference does not apply to agency interpretation of criminal statute thus the court does not need to decide whether an agency can waive Chevron deference, therefore, the court must determine BEST MEANING of the statute”
The court remanded the case back to the District level to decide how far an injunction would apply. The decision also contradicts a similar case out of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the government. The split in the Circuit Courts means that any injunction would only apply to Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. That split would mean a bump stock would be a piece of plastic in Ohio but would become a machine once the owner crosses the border into West Virginia.
The government’s petition for a rehearing en banc is not a sure thing. The court could decide to deny the rehearing leaving the government with the only choice to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. If the government does that, SCOTUS might be compelled to take the case because of the split at the Circuit Court level.
The court has stated whether or not it is considering granting the petition, and the courts will not allow the plaintiffs to respond until then.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.