The U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Whether Bump Stocks Violate Federal Law

The Supreme Court is scheduled to listen to arguments on February 28th in the case of Garland v. Cargill. This case revolves around the question of whether a bump stock turns a semiautomatic firearm into the type of “machine gun” banned under federal law.

For years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) maintained the stance that bump stocks lacking internal springs, known as nonmechanical bump stocks, did not qualify as machine guns. This determination was based on their inability to generate automatic fire.

Yet in 2018, following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas where a gunman utilized devices fitted with bump stocks to claim the lives of 58 individuals, the ATF reversed its stance.

Michael Cargill, the host of the “Come and Talk It” radio show, filed a lawsuit against the ATF challenging its 2018 interpretation, claiming it violated a section of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Despite facing defeat in two lower court rulings, the Fifth Circuit ultimately sided with him in a full-court decision.

The Fifth Circuit voted 13-3 to overturn the lower court ruling, asserting that “an act of Congress is required to prohibit bump stocks.” Eight judges thought that the law unambiguously failed to cover nonmechanical bump stocks, while 12 opined that the rule of lenity required reversal.

The principle of lenity typically guides courts to decide in favor of the defendant and against the government when the law is ambiguous.

Despite winning, Mr. Cargill is requesting that the Supreme Court accept the Justice Department’s (DOJ’s) request for it to consider his case.

Both parties note that other circuits have issued conflicting rulings on how to classify bump stocks.

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By Hunter Fielding
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