COURTS & LEGAL

US appeals court blocks ban on rapid-fire ‘bump stocks’

Jan 6, 2023, 7:22 PM

A bump stock device, (left) that fits on a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing speed, making it similar to a fully automatic rifle, is shown next to a AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, (right) at a gun store on October 5, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

(left)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Trump administration ban on bump stocks — devices that enable a shooter to rapidly fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic weapons after an initial trigger pull — was struck down Friday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

The ban was instituted after a gunman perched in a high-rise hotel using bump stock-equipped weapons massacred dozens of people in Las Vegas in 2017. Gun rights advocates have challenged it in multiple courts. The 13-3 ruling at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals is the latest on the issue, which is likely to be decided at the Supreme Court.

The decision doesn’t have an immediate effect on the ban though because the case now moves back to the lower court to decide how to proceed.

The case was somewhat unique because the issue involves not the Second Amendment but the interpretation of federal statutes. Opponents of the ban argued that bump stocks do not fall under the definition of illegal machine guns in federal law. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says they do, a position now being defended by the Biden administration.

“A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of ‘machinegun’ set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote in the lead majority opinion.

Gun advocates fight for bump stocks in latest court hearing

The court found that the definition of a machinegun — which is set out in two different federal statutes — “does not apply to bump stocks.”

The ban had survived challenges at the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the Denver-based 10th Circuit; and the federal circuit court in Washington. A panel of three judges at the 5th Circuit also issued a ruling in favor of the ban, upholding a lower court decision by a Texas federal judge. But the full New Orleans-based court voted to reconsider the case. Arguments were heard Sept. 13.

Bump stocks harness the recoil energy of a semiautomatic firearm so that a trigger “resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter,” according to the ATF. A shooter must maintain constant forward pressure on the weapon with the non-shooting hand, and constant pressure on the trigger with the trigger finger, according to court records.

The full appeals court Friday sided with opponents of the ATF rule. They had argued that the trigger itself functions multiple times when a bump stock is used, so therefore bump stock weapons do not qualify as machine guns under federal law. They point to language in the law that defines a machine gun as one that fires multiple times with a “single function of the trigger.”

Supreme Court declines to hear Utah gun rights activist’s appeal to overturn bump stock ban

Most of the majority also agreed that if the law is ambiguous, it’s up to Congress to address the issue under a court doctrine known as “lenity.”

In a dissent, Judge Stephen Higginson disagreed that bump stocks don’t fall under the federal definition of machine guns. And he wrote that the majority’s interpretation of the lenity principle was too broad. “Under the majority’s rule, the defendant wins by default whenever the government fails to prove that a statute unambiguously criminalizes the defendant’s conduct,” Higginson wrote.

Richard Samp, who argued against the rule on behalf of a Texas gun owner, said he was pleased with Friday’s ruling and had expected it after the September arguments.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Friday evening.

Judges ruling against the ban were Elrod, Priscilla Richman, Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, Carl Stewart, Leslie Southwick, Catharina Haynes, Don Willett, James Ho, Kyle Duncan, Kurt Engelhardt, Cory Wilson and Andrew Oldham. All but Stewart are Republican appointees to the appeals court.

Higginson’s dissent was joined by judges James Dennis and James Graves. The case was argued before Judge Dana Douglas, a recent appointee of Democratic President Joe Biden, joined the 5th Circuit.

KSL 5 TV Live

Courts & Legal

pills with rainbow colors...

Debbie Worthen

New overdose task force in Utah launched, DEA claims it’s a success

The DEA is claiming that a new overduce-reduction task force in the state is a success. Some say otherwise.

3 hours ago

Matheson Courthouse...

Alexander Campbell

Nephi man sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for sex tourism

A Nephi man is spending up to 30 years in prison for his connection to sex tourism.

5 hours ago

FILE - MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell talks to reporters at the Republican National Committe...

Steve Karnowski, Associated Press

Supreme Court won’t hear Mike Lindell’s challenge over FBI seizure of cellphone

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition by MyPillow founder and election denier Mike Lindell to consider his challenge to the legality of the FBI’s seizure of his cellphone at a Minnesota restaurant drive-through.

7 hours ago

A bouquet of yellow daisies, Jordan Rasmussen’s favorite flower, is placed at his grave at Wasatc...

Amy Donaldson, KSL Podcasts

‘The Letter Season 2’: A Sandy father’s last night

A new season of "The Letter" podcast explores what happened after two young fathers were murdered outside of an iconic Utah restaurant in 1982.

8 hours ago

Prosecutors filed felony charges in a Salt Lake City rape case from 2019, but later reduced them to...

Daniella Rivera

Could making this change help Utah improve sexual assault prosecutions?

Only a fraction of sexual assaults reported to police in Utah result in criminal charges for the perpetrator, but a legislative proposal could potentially change that.

1 day ago

FILE - The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott A...

Associated Press

Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

The Supreme Court is allowing Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth while lawsuits over the law proceed.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

US appeals court blocks ban on rapid-fire ‘bump stocks’