Two different cases seeking to overturn the ATF's administrative ban on bump stocks were shot down by the nation's high court this week. 

In its Monday orders list, the U.S. Supreme Court denied further appeals in the cases of Gun Owners of America vs. Garland and W. Clark Aposhian vs. Garland, bringing the challenges to an end. Four of the nine Justices must vote to accept a case, meaning each of the challenges fell short of that threshold. 

The GOA case, filed originally in December 2018 in a Michigan federal court against the Trump-era ban, was dismissed and then reversed by a 2-1 panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit in March 2021 only to have that decision vacated by an evenly divided en banc full court of the circuit in June 2021, setting it up for further Supreme Court appeal. 

The Aposhian case, filed in a Utah federal court in January 2019, challenged the proper role of administrative agencies– such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives– and whether their regulations may contradict a law passed by Congress, specifically the definition of a “machine gun” as set by lawmakers in 1934 and 1968. The case argued that ATF essentially rewrote the definition as set out by previous laws, something that was not in the agency’s power to do. While Aposhian received a stay in his case from the 10th Circuit, a panel of the same court eventually upheld the ban in May 2020. Further action by the Circuit sent the case to the Supreme Court. 

The two cases, mixed in with the unappealed overturned conviction for possessing an illegal bump stock from a Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals in 2021 and a panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit that upheld the ATF rule, could have caused enough of a split for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue, it would seem, but in the end, that didn't happen. Barring further appeals that strike a more urgent tone with the court, the matter of bump stocks is dead, at least for now. 

Moreover, at least one federal court has held that owners of forfeited bump stocks are not entitled to compensation from the government, with the judge, in that case, saying, "because the government, as the sovereign, has the power to take property that is dangerous, diseased, or used in criminal activities without compensation."

While those outside of past bump stock owners may look at the news from the Supreme Court this week, shrug and say, "So what? Who needed that gimmicky thing anyway?" that isn't the point that a lot of the groups behind such challenges were making. 

"If the ATF is allowed to twist federal law to unilaterally decree that a bump stock is a machine gun, then they can use this same logic to ban almost any semi-automatic firearm and undermine the constitutionally protected rights of Americans," said Erich Pratt, GOA’s Senior Vice President, in referencing the ban earlier this year. 

Texas gun shop owner Michael Cargill, whose bump stock challenge is still with the U.S. Fifth Circuit, feels the high court may give his case a shot. 

"The ATF’s decision this week to deny cert to 2 other bump stock cases and not release a statement signals that SCOTUS is waiting for Cargill v DOJ to move forward," Cargill said in a statement. "Especially since the cases that were denied have not had their day in court yet. Cargill v Garland is the only bump stock case that has had a trial. I reiterate that Cargill v DOJ is about government agencies creating laws and the Chevron Deference."

Banner photo: Slide Fire Solutions.

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