On December 18, 2018, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced a highly controversial ruling banning bump-stocks or similar devices. Specifically, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has amended the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) “to clarify that bump stocks and slide-fire devices would be defined as machine guns under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 and the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968.” According to the BATF, the new regulation will go into effect on March 26, 2019—90 days after it was published in the Federal Register.
This ruling is controversial for several reasons. First, the BATF has issued ten letter rulings between 2008 and 2017 that correctly held that bump-stock and similar devices do not meet the federal definition of “machine gun” under the NFA and GCA. Thus, this regulation change is completely opposite to the position they have taken since they first approved these devices to be sold. Next, it is a common legal fact that a regulatory agency, such as the BATF, cannot change a statute passed by Congress. Only Congress can change a statute. The new “rule” adopted by the BATF actually changes the definition of what constitutes a “machine gun” under federal statute and thus exceeds the authority of the BATF. While there are numerous other reasons this announcement is controversial, perhaps most telling is that it is a purely political decision. That is, on February 20, 2018, President Trump issued a memorandum to the Attorney General to initiate regulatory action to ban these devices. Because statutes can only be amended by the Legislative Branch of Government, this directive was a blatant overreach of Executive authority that violates the Constitution on numerous grounds. This is not how Democracy works.
I Own a Bump Stock, What Should I do?
If you own a bump stock or similar device, March 26, 2019, is a very important day to you. As of that day, anyone in possession of a bump stock could be charged with a federal felony and face up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines. This action by the BATF will also spill over to state laws, which could result in additional and serious criminal charges. According to the BATF, prior to March 26, 2019, you should turn in your legally purchased bump stocks or destroy them. If you own a bump stock or similar device, you understand that these items are expensive. We believe you have a better option.
As of this writing, Berry Law Firm is aware of one suit in Federal Court that has been filed to prevent this ruling from going into effect. This lawsuit has been filed in Michigan by the Gun Owners of America. Berry Law Firm is seeking individual owners, retailers and manufacturers of these devices to file additional lawsuits to prevent this law from going into effect. This may sound daunting and expensive, but it shouldn’t. In cases like this, when the government is attempting to deprive its citizens of constitutional rights (in this case the Right to Bear Arms under the Second Amendment, the Rights of Due Process, Fair Notice and Just Compensation under the 5th Amendment), the government can be ordered to pay attorney fees and expenses. If you care about your constitutional rights, and want to protect your investments, please contact us.
I Don’t Own a Bump Stock, Why Should I Care?
Many firearm owners do not own or see a need for bump stocks. Many who are opposed to firearms might agree with this action. First and foremost, everyone should be afraid of this ruling regardless of your individual position on firearms. What is at stake in this ruling is whether a non-elected bureaucrat can change the law with the swipe of a pencil, instead of utilizing the Constitutional system of government that we have. What if the Department of Health and Human Services decided that our population was too large, and created a regulation limiting the number of children people could have? What if the President ordered the Department of Justice to prosecute people who engaged in lawful and non-violent protests over government action they disagreed with? There is no difference here. Allowing the President to unilaterally direct agencies to change federal statutes without going through the legislative process is a dangerous breach of democracy that will negatively impact everyone.
Gun Rights Attorneys
Berry Law has fought for the constitutional rights of individuals for over 60 years, whether that be overseas in war or at home defending the constitutional rights of clients. We believe that your constitutional rights are non-negotiable, and we are dedicated to protecting them. Our lawyers represent the entire firearm supply chain: Individuals, dealers and manufacturers. We have the ability to handle federal regulatory and criminal matters throughout the United States. Berry Law is a proud member of the NRA and the NSSF. If you need legal help relating to your firearms rights, contact Berry Law’s skilled attorneys today.
The final ruling may be found here.