I have no clue either.
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- In the latest court filing, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, (ATF) has stated that they do not possess the authority to legislate the banning of bump stocks.
A bump stock is a device that allows the user to use the recoil of the firearm in conjunction with a forward pushing motion on the handguard to pull the trigger rapidly. In theory, this combination enables the user to increase the rate of fire of a firearm.
On the day after Christmas in 2018, the ATF released a final ruling on bump stocks stating that the devices are “machine guns.” All machine guns are a National Firearms Act (NFA) Item. Since the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 bans citizens from owning any machine gun produced after 1986, it made every bump stock illegal.
Owners of bump stocks could either destroy their device or turn them over to law enforcement to hold or be destroyed. States like Washington State held bump stock buybacks which paid owners $100 to turn in their bump stocks. If a bump stock owner refused to turn in their device or make it inoperable, they faced a $10,000 fine in ten years in federal prison.
In Aposhian v. Barr, et al., Firearms instructor W. Clark Aposhian of Utah sued Attorney General Bob Barr. He claimed that the ATF lacks the authority to change the definition of a machine gun. The plaintiff further asserts that only congress can make a new federal law that would ban the device.
AmmoLand reached out to our sources in the Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF. Our source, who was not authorized to talk on the matter stated that the new interpretation of machine gun did not come from their branch. He went onto point out that a person doesn’t need a bump stock to bump fire a rifle. He explained how common items like belt loops or rubber bands can be used to bump fire a gun.
Our source went onto say that the Firearms Technology Branch has reviewed bump stocks on multiple occasions since getting one from Slide Fire in 2010. Every time, they have ruled that these devices do not violate the NFA. He speculates that it was pressure from the White House that caused the definition to change, but he states that he doesn’t have direct evidence.
I reached out to several other ATF agents and lawyers about the court filing. All our contacts expressed the view that this admittance isn’t a deal. In the eyes of the ATF, anyone caught with a bump stock is still guilty of a felony, and they will fully prosecute the owner to the full extent of the law.
The ATF isn’t arguing in court that they have the legal authority to change the definition of a machine gun. The ATF is merely claiming they are using the “best interpretation” of the statute.
Sources close to the case on the plaintiff side have also told me that this admittance from the ATF doesn’t do much other than creating headlines. This court filing is not the end of the case, and in all likelihood will have little effect on the outcome since the ATF has never claimed to have the power to legislate.
AmmoLand reached out to several sources in the ATF, but none were willing to go on the record.