As soon as President Trump directed the ATF to take another look at federal law in order to re-classify bump stocks as machine guns, the Firearms Policy Coalition and others filed lawsuits challenging the new ATF rule and then acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s authority to issue it.
The first decision, however, has gone against the challengers. DC District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich has rejected the FPC’s lawsuits.
Friedrich rejected arguments that the rule was rushed through the administrative process, or that it was improperly issued by then acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. She wrote that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was within its right to redefine ambiguous terms that the government had previously concluded constrained them to allow the devices.
“That this decision marked a reversal of ATF’s previous interpretation is not a basis for invalidating the rule because ATF’s current interpretation is lawful and ATF adequately explained the change in interpretation,” Dabney wrote in her 64-page ruling.
She didn’t buy the FPC’s argument that Whitaker couldn’t legally issue the rule.
Friedrich also rejected an argument that the ban was unlawful because it had been approved by former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, whose appointment last year was met with criticism because he had not been approved for the job by the Senate. She ruled that Trump had the power to appoint Whitaker.
You can read Judge Friedrich’s 64-page ruling here.
This is but the first step in the process. And there are three other lawsuits that have been filed challenging the ban.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, denounced the ruling and vowed to appeal to reign in “a rogue and growing executive branch.”
“We are disappointed but unsurprised by the court’s ruling tonight denying a temporary injunction to protect Americans from an unlawful and unconstitutional regulation,” the group wrote in a statement.
Technically, owners of bump stocks have until March 26 to turn them in or destroy the. That date could change if a stay is granted while the ruling is appealed. In any case, given the anemic compliance rates with other laws enacting bans or mandatory registration in places like New York and California, don’t look for many owners to trash or turn in their bump stocks.
You can read the Firearms Policy Coalition’s statement on the ruling here.