Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction Request in Case Against Bump-Stock Ban

Gun-rights group behind suit vow further action, other cases still pending

Getty Images
February 26, 2019

A federal judge denied a request to block President Trump's unilateral ban on bump-fire stocks pending further litigation on Monday night.

Judge Dabney Langhorne Friedrich of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives was not at fault in reinterpreting the definition of "machineguns" in order to apply it to bump-fire stocks. (New sales of "machineguns" were outlawed under an amendment to the National Firearms Act in 1986.) Judge Friedrich argued the agency didn't err in claiming bump stocks enable firearms to fire multiple rounds with a "single function of the trigger," even though the trigger resets between each round fired and requires the trigger to be actuated for each round fired. The judge argued that the statutory definition of "machinegun" is vague and the ATF is therefore free to reinterpret it in the way they did.

"Because the statute does not provide any additional guidance on the correct interpretation, the Court concludes that the term is ambiguous," Judge Friedrich wrote in her ruling.

She went on to argue a bump stock automates specific functions that would otherwise need to be done manually when bump firing.

"The bump stock makes it easier to bump fire because it controls the distance the firearm recoils and ensures that the firearm moves linearly—two tasks the shooter would ordinarily have to perform manually," she wrote. "In this way, a bump stock creates a 'self-acting mechanism' that permits 'the discharge of multiple rounds' with 'a single function of the trigger ... without manual reloading.'"

The Firearms Policy Coalition and Firearms Policy Foundation, which filed the lawsuit, said they were unhappy with the ruling but would move forward with litigation.

"We are disappointed but unsurprised by the Court's ruling tonight denying a temporary injunction to protect Americans from an unlawful and unconstitutional regulation," the gun-rights groups said in a statement. "It is important to note that today's order is not a final ruling on any claim, and is merely a trial court's denial of a temporary injunction. And while we had hoped for a quick and positive outcome at the trial court level, we have been and remain committed to litigating these issues as much as it takes to completely resolve the cases and protect Americans from a rogue and growing executive branch, including by petitioning the United States Supreme Court if necessary."

The suit is only one of several filed in different jurisdictions across the country. Still, the two groups said they have already filed paperwork to begin appealing Monday’s decision.

"Our attorneys have already filed notices of appeal with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and will be moving to expedite the appeal," the groups said. "Our outstanding counsel have and will continue to make every effort to protect American gun owners and their private property from the Administration's dangerous, retroactive, and confiscatory ban that will turn thousands of good people into felons and deprive people of their lawfully acquired private property."