AP NEWS

Federal appeals court upholds Trump administration’s bump stock ban

April 1, 2019

A federal appeals court in D.C. on Monday ruled that a lower court was correct in denying a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the Trump administration’s ban on bump stock-type devices.

The ruling is another legal setback for gun rights advocates fighting in court to overturn the ban, after the U.S. Supreme Court last week denied emergency petitions to block it. The new ban took effect on March 26.

“The Bump-Stock Rule sets forth a permissible interpretation of the statute’s ambiguous definition of ‘machinegun,’ ” judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in a 59-page ruling.

The appeals court did say Monday that a temporary delay of the ban for those involved in the case would remain in effect for 48 hours to give plaintiffs time to appeal to the Supreme Court for a stay if they want to do so.

But the Supreme Court action, coupled with the ruling Monday, means the ban on the devices, which attach to semiautomatic firearms to mimic the rate of machine gun fire, remain in place for almost all the country.

Gun rights advocates, including the California-based Firearms Policy Foundation, have argued that the Trump administration doesn’t have the statutory authority to regulate the devices as “machine guns,” which are heavily restricted for public use.

They point to rulings during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations that the devices weren’t weapons themselves, so it would take a new law from Congress to impose a ban.

But the Trump administration said it took a fresh look at the rules after the October 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, where the gunman used bump stocks to rain fire down on concertgoers, killing 58 people, and concluded that the devices are machine guns and can be regulated under existing federal law.

In a partial dissent, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson said that while she can think of “little legitimate use” for a bump stock, she would have granted the preliminary injunction, saying she thought the new rule expanded the statutory definition of “machinegun.”

Gun control advocates, meanwhile, hailed the broader ruling, while also saying they’re prepared to see further appeals.

“Today’s decision from the D.C. Circuit represents an important and sensible step toward ensuring that those who intend to commit mass violence can’t get their hands on bump stocks,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.