Firearms instructor W. Clark Aposhian of Utah is a law-abiding citizen, but under the “Bump-Stock-Type Devices” Final Rule, on March 26th, 2019, he would have become a felon subject to a 10-year prison sentence unless he destroyed or surrendered his Slide Fire bump-stock device. The same was true for owners of the estimated 520,000 other bump-stock devices legally acquired over the last decade. The final rule attempts to prohibit the otherwise lawful possession of bump-stocks by rewriting the statutory definition of a prohibited “machinegun.” Mr. Aposhian challenged the ban in federal court and sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ATF.
The case is not about whether bump stocks should be banned. Instead, it is about whether ATF acted lawfully in the way it banned them. NCLA contends in this lawsuit that only Congress, not administrative agencies, can write criminal laws such as ATF’s rule banning bump stocks. The lawsuit raises key issues about the proper role of administrative agencies, whether agency regulations may contradict a statute passed by Congress, and whether an agency can retroactively punish lawful purchasers of a device who may not hear about the ban before it turns them into felons.