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U.S. District Court of D.C. Refuses to Block Bump Stock Ban for Firearms

February 26, 2019 Criminal Law and Procedure

A federal government ban on the possession of bump stocks goes into effect on March 26, 2019. People with bump stocks had 90 days starting in late December before they must either turn them into the ATF or destroy them on their own. After 90 days, possession of a bump stock is illegal under federal law.

Until then, pro-gun rights group have litigated the issue in an attempt to block the ban.

The Lawsuit

In this suit, the Firearms Policy Coalition and other groups petitioned the United States District Court for D.C. to block the ban on bump stocks. The suit was not based on the Second Amendment. Instead, the group based its legal argument on procedural grounds, arguing the Trump administration exceeded its constitutional authority when it created the ban.

The Court’s Decision

The Judge concluded that the group did not put forward any convincing arguments for the Court to block the ban. The judge ruled it was “reasonable” for the ATF to enact the ban. Further, the Court did not believe the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act in its actions.

Judge Friedrich wrote, That this decision marked a reversal of ATF’s previous interpretation [of the meaning of bump stock] is not a basis for invalidating the rule,” Friedrich wrote, “because ATF’s current interpretation is lawful and ATF adequately explained the change in interpretation.”

However, the Court would issue a preliminary injunction that applies to the plaintiff only.

Background for Lawsuit

The bump stock ban resulted from a rule change created by the Trump administration, and not a law enacted by Congress. The ATF reclassified the definition of bump stock so that a bump stock is considered a machine gun. Machine guns, which are fully automatic weapons, are banned under federal law.

A bump stock is an attachment to a semi-automatic weapon. Essentially, this attachment transforms the gun into a fully automatic weapon, allowing a shooter to shoot more bullets and faster. The bump stock device received national attention after several horrible shootings.

Not The Only Lawsuit

The Firearms Policy Coalition isn’t the only group suing the government in an attempt to stop the ban. Gun Owners of America has brought suit in the Western District of Michigan in Kalamazoo. Judge Maloney in that case also refused to block the ban. Gun Owners were not successful in trial court, and filed an appeal in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Sixth Circuit also declined to issue a preliminary injunction. The group petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which again declined to issue a preliminary injunction.

There are also lawsuits in Utah, Texas, and the U.S. Federal Court of Claims. None of the other lawsuits have been successful in obtaining preliminary injunctions against the ban except to the extent the injunction applies to a plaintiff (in at least one of the suits).

The litigants are all essentially arguing that the rule change was unconstitutional. That is, any ban should come from Congress itself, not a reclassification of words in an existing law.

The issue is likely to be tied up in litigation for some time.

Call Us

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at

Sam Bernstein is a Washtenaw County Criminal Defense Attorney.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw County, MI 48108.

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