BATFE Oversteps Authority in Two Landmark Gun Cases

June 14, 2024…Lots of Action in the Courts – Second Amendment

If you're a Second Amendment advocate, a firearms enthusiast, or someone who just likes to be left alone by the government when it comes to your Constitutional rights…there were two monumental cases ruled on this week: Mock v Garland out of the Northern District of Texas and Garland v Cargill from the US Supreme Court. The two courts have said the BATFE can't just make law… that's up to the Legislature.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) had changed its rules on two items on guns without seeking legislative changes in the law.

The first is the Stabilizing Brace, designed and used by handicapped individuals to allow them to shoot weapons, which would typically require two hands to be used with only one. The government alleged this item changed the firearm's design from a pistol to a short-barreled rifle firearm. "On December 18, 2018, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced that the Department of Justice has amended the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), clarifying that bump stocks fall within the definition of “machinegun” under federal law, as such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger." (BATFE Website.) The rule went into effect March 26, 2019.

In Mock v. Garland, Justice Reed O'Connor ruled vacating the BATFE's rule banning pistol braces. The BATFE declared These braces legal for years, and millions of them were sold throughout the country. In a matter of days, the BATFE would've made millions of individuals into felons by a simple change of a rule they felt was fine for years, and millions of Americans relied upon for lawful use of an attachment.

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Judge O'Connor Granted Summary Judgment, stating, "The Final Rule violated the APA's procedural requirements because it was arbitrary and capricious and was not a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule."

Right now, stabilizing braces are not illegal…but this case will most likely go up the food chain to a final determination. We have an idea of what may happen if it makes it to the Supreme Court…as we have all been waiting on two cases from them…Garland v. Cargill and United States V. Rahimi.

Well, this week's second case is one of the Supreme Court cases we've been waiting on: Garland v. Cargill about bump stocks. A Bump stock attaches to a firearm to aid in a user's ability to simulate the function of a machine gun. This was made illegal by the BATFE, which put out a rule in 2018 making the accessory into a Title II machine gun and was endorsed by President Trump. This rule made overnight felons out of more than 500,000 Americans if they didn't give over their legally purchased accessories…divesting them of hundreds of dollars spent and at the threat of prison and a hefty fine.

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A gun bump stock (Credit: Slide Fire via MGN.).

In Garland v. Cargill, the Supreme Court split 6-3 (party lines). It overturned the BATFE's rule, stating the governmental agency can't just change a rule, effectively bypassing the Legislature's sole power to make law. Justice Clarence Thomas stated, "A bump stock does not convert a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does." He is right.

The conservative justices were concerned about what the devices could allow someone to do. Still, their narrow focus was whether the device could automatically fire more than one shot by a single trigger function. The accessory has no part in changing the function of the firearm. It still fires a single round with the press of the trigger. This is a semi-automatic firearm. However, the BATFE wanted to change the definition without changing the law.

In short, the BATFE, a government agency overstepped the line by making rules which, without lawsuits, would have made millions of Americans felons overnight with the threat for severe prison time and massive fines. Even if you are not a firearms enthusiast, the ramifications of a rogue agency just making people criminals without the legislature making the laws to do so should scare the hell out of you.