On Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld a 2019 federal rule banning “bump stocks," which facilitate a rapid-firing technique on semi-automatic firearms.
Bump stocks became notorious after they were used in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre. As president, Donald Trump pledged to ban bump stocks soon after it was found that the gunman had utilized them to shoot and kill 58 people attending a country music festival.
In December 2018, the Trump administration announced a rule classifying guns equipped with bump stocks as machine guns, “which federal law almost entirely bans,” according to Reuters. A 1986 amendment to the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act effectively outlawed most sales of new machine guns.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed that guns equipped with bump stocks qualify as machine guns.
The gun rights advocacy groups argued that guns with bump stocks do not qualify as machine guns because, unlike with traditional machine guns, the user must maintain pressure on the trigger and barrel. The court rejected that argument.
"By this logic, we would no longer characterize even the prototypical machine gun as a 'machine gun,' given the extent of rearward pressure on the trigger required to operate it," Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins wrote in the court’s opinion. "That cannot be right."
"We are disappointed but not surprised at the result," said Erik Jaffe, who represents the gun rights advocacy groups that had sued to challenge the federal rule. "We think the court made a number of factual and legal errors that we plan in pointing out in further appellate proceedings."
Second Amendment advocates worry that this ruling may lead to further restrictions on gun rights. In a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the pro-gun rights advocacy group Firearms Policy Coalition wrote that such a redefinition of machine guns "defies any recognizable public meaning of the language of the statute and leads to absurd results." Labeling bump stock guns as machine guns implies that "nearly every semiautomatic firearm in existence" could fall under that definition, wrote the FPC.
The case is Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, No. 21-5045.