Supreme Court Oral Argument in NCLA Case Against ATF’s Unlawful Bump-Stock Ban


Slide Fire SSAR-15 SBS Bump Fire Stock
NCLA Case Against ATF’s Unlawful Bump-Stock Ban: File Photo

TOMORROW: Supreme Court Oral Argument in New Civil Liberties Alliance Case Against ATF’s Unlawful Bump-Stock Ban

WHERE: U.S. Supreme Court. Listen to the oral argument livestream here.

WHEN: February 28, 2024. Oral arguments begin at 10 AM EST.

WHAT: NCLA asks the U.S. Supreme Court to determine that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ unilateral bump-stock ban conflicts with the federal statute defining “machineguns.” ATF’s regulatory ban, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shot down early last year, reversed the agency’s own long-standing recognition that bump-stock-equipped firearms are not illegal machine guns.

The ban threatened to turn Americans who had legally purchased bumpstocks into criminals overnight.

ATF issued a Final Rule in 2018 defining semi-automatic firearms equipped with bump stocks as “machineguns,” which federal law prohibits. The rule required Mr. Cargill, a Texas gun shop owner and Army veteran—and every other bump-stock owner nationwide—to either destroy or turn in their legally purchased devices. In January 2023, the en banc Fifth Circuit ruled in Cargill v. Garland that banning bump stocks requires an act of Congress, a major victory for NCLA. The ruling that bump stocks are not machine guns agrees with a subsequent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and an earlier one from the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, but it conflicts with Tenth Circuit and D.C. Circuit decisions rejecting challenges to ATF’s Final Rule.

The Constitution provides that only Congress may enact new criminal laws. Congress adopted a statute banning machineguns in 1986 that did not cover bump stocks.

ATF is not authorized to draft regulations expanding the reach of criminal laws beyond the scope of what Congress prohibited, so New Civil Liberties Alliance urges the Supreme Court to resolve this issue and safeguard Americans’ rights against administrative agency power grabs. NCLA is confident the Court will interpret the statute correctly and set aside ATF’s rule.

New Civil Liberties Alliance client Michael Cargill, former Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell, who will deliver oral arguments on his behalf, NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel Richard Samp, and NCLA President Mark Chenoweth will make remarks on the Supreme Court steps afterward.

New Civil Liberties Alliance released the following statements:

“My case is not about legalizing machine guns; on June 26th 1934, Congress passed the National Firearms Act, which has since been amended, to clarify machine guns. This case concerns whether the ATF, an administrative agency, creates or writes law, or is that job reserved for Congress.” — Michael Cargill, NCLA client.

“This case is about the effort of a federal agency to create a new criminal statute. The Constitution is clear that it is up to Congress, not the Executive Branch, to establish criminal laws.” — Richard Samp, Senior Litigation Counsel, NCLA.

“This week in the Garland v. Cargill case the Supreme Court will consider whether Congress is the only branch of government with the ability to write criminal laws, as the Constitution requires, or whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms may reinterpret an old statute to create new criminal liability. If a federal agency can issue a rule that makes people felons for owning a device the agency had repeatedly and consistently approved as lawful for more than a decade, then everyone’s liberty is truly in jeopardy. ” — Mark Chenoweth, President and Chief Legal Officer, NCLA.

For more information, visit the case page here.

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