DC Circuit’s April Fools Joke On The Constitution

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia released its decision in the combined cases of Guedes et al v. BATFE et al and Codrea et al v. Barr. It was a per curiam decision with Judge Karen Henderson dissenting in part and concurring in part. The court sided with the District Court in denying the preliminary injunction of the bump stock rule.

PER
CURIAM

: In October 2017, a lone gunman armed with
bump-stock-enhanced semiautomatic weapons murdered 58
people and wounded hundreds more in a mass shooting at a
concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the wake of that tragedy, the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
(“Bureau”) promulgated through formal notice-and-comment
proceedings a rule that classifies bump-stock devices as
machine guns under the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C.
§§ 5801–5872.
See
Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg.
66,514 (Dec. 26, 2018) (“Bump-Stock Rule”). The then-
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker initially signed the
final Bump-Stock Rule, and Attorney General William Barr
independently ratified it shortly after taking office. Bump-
stock owners and advocates filed separate lawsuits in the
United States District Court for the District of Columbia to
prevent the Rule from taking effect. The district court denied
the plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction to halt the
Rule’s effective date.
Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms, and Explosives
, 356 F. Supp. 3d 109 (D.D.C. 2019).
We affirm the denial of preliminary injunctive relief.

 The case was heard by Judges Karen Henderson, Sri Srinivasan, and Patricia Millett. Srinivasan and Millett were appointed to the Court of Appeals by former President Obama while Judge Henderson by President George H. W. Bush.

In reaching their decision, the court found that BATFE was entitled to Chevron deference and that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed in their case as a result.

Judge Henderson parted company with her colleagues and said that the bump stock rule does contradict the statutory definition of a machine gun. As such, she would have granted the injunction.
She examined the history of the National Firearms Act, rulings of BATFE, the previous rulings that the bump stock was NOT a machine gun, the slow motion video evidence submitted to the District Court, and the affidavit of Richard Vasquez who had done the technical evaluation of the bump stock.

She concluded:

If the focus is
—as it must
be—on the trigger,
a bump stock
does not qualify as a “machinegun.” A semiautomatic rifle
shoots a single round
per pull of the trigger and the bump stock
changes
only
how
the pull is accomplished. Without a bump
stock
, the shooter
pull
s the trigger with his finger for each shot.
With a bump stock, however, the shooter
—after the initial
pull
—maintains backward pressure on the trigger and puts forward pressure on the barrel with his non-
shooting hand;
these manual inputs cause the rifle to slide and result in the
shooter’s
stationary
finger pulling the trigger.
Bump
-Stock

Type Devices
, 83 Fed. Reg.
at 66,533 (“The constant forward
pressure with the non-
trigger hand pushes the firearm forward,
again pulling the firearm forward, engaging the trigger, and
firing a second round.”). T
he bump stock therefore
affects
whether the shooter
pull
s
his
trigger
finger or keep
s it
stationary
. It does not change the movement of the trigger
itself
, which “
must be released, reset, and fully pulled rearward
before
[a]
subsequent round can be fired.” Verified
Declaration of Richard (Rick) Vasquez, former Acting Chief
of the Firearms Tech
. Branch of ATF, at 3–4.



Like countless other Americans, I can think of
little
legitimate
use
for
a bump stock. That thought
, however
, has
nothing to do with the legality
of the Bump Stock Rule. For
the reason
s detailed
supra
, I believe the Bump Stock Rule
expands the statutory definition of “machinegun” and is
therefore
ultra vires
.
In my view, the plaintiffs are likely to
succeed on
the merits of their challenge and I would grant them
preliminary injunctive relief.



Accordingly, I respectfully dissent


3 thoughts on “DC Circuit’s April Fools Joke On The Constitution”

  1. There are many arguments against the bump stock ruling, and Judge Henderson almost opens that door but doesn't specifically say that the next step is that it outlaws every semiautomatic gun ever made because the commercial bump stock is just a "circus trick" to make it easier to do that with less practice.

    The majority said, a lone gunman armed with bump-stock-enhanced semiautomatic weapons murdered 58 people and while it is reasonable to assume they may have seen things that haven't been publicly released, AFAICT nobody actually knows which weapon was (or weapons were) actually used, so that nobody knows if he used a bump stock or not.

    He may have used bump stocks and he may not have. The bigger point there is that one crime in the history of the world used a bump stock and for this we force everyone onto the slippery slope that they can outlaw any gun at any time simply because it was used in one crime. That's a pretty low threshold.

  2. Still waiting for the classification of rubber bands and finger exercisers as machine guns. I know they'll say "that will never happen" but then they say that about a lot of things. Hopefully this will get overturned at a higher level but I am doubtful. Most judges know little to nothing about firearms. Why would they, living in or around Washington, D.C.

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