Constitutional Law

Federal judge refuses to block regulatory ban on bump stocks, used to accelerate gunfire

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Photo by Kyle T Perry/

A regulation that bans bump stocks can take effect on March 26, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich of Washington, D.C., refused to grant a preliminary injunction to block the regulation, report the Washington Post, Reuters and USA Today.

Bump stocks, used to accelerate gunfire on semi-automatic weapons, were used in the deadly 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 people dead. The new regulation defines a bump stock as a machine gun, a weapon that is banned under the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986.

The regulation requires people who own bump stocks to destroy them or turn them in to federal agents. The new rule was issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Friedrich ruled in consolidated lawsuits, Guedes v. ATF and Codrea v. Barr. One of the plaintiffs is the Firearms Policy Coalition, which announced in a press release that its attorneys have filed notice of appeal. A separate suit is pending in Michigan.

The plaintiffs challenging the ban had claimed violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause. Their suit also claimed that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had no authority to promulgate the rule because his appointment violated the appointments clause and an attorney general succession statute.

Friedrich said most of the administrative law challenges are foreclosed by the Chevron doctrine that permits an agency to reasonably define undefined statutory terms.

As for the takings clause challenge, the plaintiffs weren’t able to show that injunctive relief rather than future compensation is appropriate, Friedrich said.

She also said the statutory scheme allows the president to select one of two statutes governing succession of Senate-confirmed officials. One is the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allowed for the appointment of Whitaker.

She also rejected an argument that Whitaker’s appointment violated the appointments clause, which generally requires “principal officers” of the United States who report directly to the president be appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly embraced the government’s view that the temporary nature of acting duties allows individuals to perform them without becoming a principal officer, Friedrich said.

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