- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2019

Gun-rights advocates mounted a last-ditch effort Monday to block a federal ban on bump stock-type devices from going into effect Tuesday, saying owners of the devices should be given a temporary reprieve to avoid waking up in violation of federal law.

Lawyers for groups challenging the ban want the Supreme Court to intervene, after an appellate court ordered a delay for those involved in the challenge and “current, bona fide” members of involved groups, which include the California-based Firearms Policy Foundation.

Without a broader delay of the ban, “hundreds of thousands of citizens will be required to surrender or destroy their property or face felony charges,” the attorneys said in their emergency application to the high court.

Joshua Prince, a lawyer arguing for the groups, has said they’ve been asking for more time.

“Just hold off on implementation and enforcement of the rule until such time as the courts make a final judgment on the matter,” he said.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals also temporarily blocked the government from enforcing the ban against a Utah resident who had sued, but that was a similarly narrow ruling that didn’t stop the new rules from taking effect for most of the U.S. population.

In a separate case out of the Midwest, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday denied another petition to stay the ban pending appeal.

Several district courts have sided with the Justice Department in the ongoing legal battle, which had prompted the appeals.

The Trump administration moved to impose the ban after several high-profile shootings, including one in Las Vegas in October 2017 when a gunman used bump stocks to shoot more than 1,000 rounds down onto concertgoers, killing 58 people.

Bump stocks attach to semiautomatic firearms to mimic the fire rate of machine guns.

But gun-rights advocates say the administration lacks the authority to regulate the devices as machine guns, pointing to conflicting rulings by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

They also said the Trump administration violated procedural rules in developing the new rules, which were finalized in December.

But the Justice Department said it took a “fresh look” at the devices after the Las Vegas shooting, and concluded that they essentially operate as machine guns, saying they harness recoil energy to allow continuous firing.

The public is generally banned from owning machine guns made after 1986.

Mr. Prince had advised people to wait until Monday afternoon to return the devices so they wouldn’t have to go back and try to retrieve them if the courts intervene.

“People are rightfully concerned, because these are law-abiding citizens. They don’t want to be committing a felony,” he said.

It’s not clear how many bump stocks have been destroyed or turned over to the government since the final rule to ban them was published in late December.

A spokeswoman for the ATF said the agency isn’t discussing the number of people who have turned the devices into the agency, saying it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the level of compliance with the ban since owners have alternatives, which include destroying the devices themselves.

“ATF is aware that possessors may wait until the last minute to comply with the final rule and abandon the bump-stock-type devices,” spokeswoman April Langwell said in an email. “ATF encourages possessors to comply with the final rule prior to it taking effect.”

Unlike some gun buy-back programs, the government is not offering compensation to people who turn in their devices — another major point of contention for owners.

“Why shouldn’t people be reimbursed? This is a Fifth Amendment issue — a taking of property without reimbursement,” said William L. Akins, an early bump stock pioneer who recently turned in his devices under protest. “If you are going to do this, at least reimburse the people.”

The government said it received hundreds of comments with similar objections during the rule-making process, but cited past case law to argue that restrictions on “dangerous articles” by the government to protect public safety and welfare do not qualify as a taking for public use that merits compensation.

Gun control advocates, meanwhile, say they support the administration’s proposed ban, though many have said Congress should act to pass one that would more easily survive any court challenges.

“Allowing widespread access to bump stocks, which dramatically increase the ability of shooters intent on harm to inflict mass carnage, would threaten to exacerbate” the costs of gun violence, lawyers for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said in a court brief filed this month supporting the administration’s position.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide