Fifth Circuit Panel Upholds ATF’s Bump Stock Ban

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling that affirmed the ATF’s classification of bump stocks as the functional equivalent of machine guns under the National Firearms Act.

In their ruling in the case Cargill v. Garland . . .

Cargill argues that bump stocks unambiguously are not “machinegun[s]” under the above statutory definition because semiautomatic firearms equipped with bump stocks (1) do not shoot “more than one shot . . . by a single function of the trigger” and (2) do not shoot “automatically.”

The three-judge panel, however, has ruled that . . .

A bump stock is “a part designed and intended” to enable a person armed with a semiautomatic rifle to “shoot[] . . . automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b). Accordingly, we agree with the district court that the Bump Stock Rule properly classifies bump stocks as “machinegun[s]” for purposes of federal law. Id.; see also 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(23). 11 

And in a footnote . . .

Though the district court concluded that “the traditional tools of statutory interpretation yield unambiguous meanings” for the disputed terms, we hold only that the statute does not contain the kind of grievous ambiguity that causes the rule of lenity to apply. 

Though we conclude that the Bump Stock Rule offers the best interpretation of the NFA’s definition of “machinegun,” Congress may wish to further clarify whether various novel devices qualify as machine guns for purposes of federal law.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. You can read the panel’s full opinion here.