Cargill v. Barr, et al.

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CASE SUMMARY

Michael Gargill, a resident of Austin, Texas, surrendered his bump stocks at the Austin Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on the day the Bump Stock Final Rule became law because he is a law abiding citizen. But he is fighting back. The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, against the ATF on his behalf seeking to overturn the federal ban and to halt its enforcement. NCLA contends that only Congress, not an administrative agency like the ATF, can write criminal laws such as the ban on bump stocks. The Bump Stock Final Rule, became effective on March 26, 2019 and some 520,000 bump stock owners nationwide are subject to a 10-year prison sentence unless they destroy or surrender the devices. The ATF is holding on to Mr. Cargill’s bump stocks pending a decision on his case.

CASE DOCUMENTS

March 25, 2019 | Complaint

The Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have violated this basic principle by issuing the “Bump-Stock-Type Devices” Final Rule. Contrary to statutory language enacted by Congress (and signed by the President), and circumventing congressional efforts to revise that language, this rule is scheduled to make hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding Americans into felons in defiance of constitutional restraints on executive power. Whatever the merits of such a policy, the Final Rule violates the fundamental constitutional order and thus cannot be tolerated.

Plaintiff Michael Cargill, like hundreds of thousands of his fellow Americans, legally purchased a bump-stock device with the ATF’s express approval. And even though the law written by Congress has not changed, the Department of Justice has ordered Mr. Cargill to destroy or surrender his device or face criminal prosecution. To make matters worse, since the Final Rule has come under attack in various lawsuits filed across the country, the Defendants have taken the position that the rule is not a “final” rule at all, but a mere interpretation of the statutes that make machineguns illegal, and that bump stock devices have been illegal “machineguns” since 1934, when the National Firearms Act was first enacted. Consequently, Mr. Cargill, and many thousands of other law-abiding Americans, have now been declared to have been violating a criminal statute for the entire time they have owned bump stocks. The Constitution does not permit such lawmaking by executive fiat, and the enforcement of this rule must be permanently enjoined.

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PRESS RELEASES

March 26, 2019 | NCLA Files Lawsuit in Texas Against the ATF’s Bump Stock Final Rule

Washington, DC (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, against the  Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The case seeks to overturn the federal ban on bump stocks and to halt its enforcement. NCLA contends that only Congress, not an administrative agency like the ATF, can write criminal laws such as the ban on
bump stocks.

NCLA represents Austin, Texas resident and gun enthusiast Michael Cargill. Mr. Cargill surrendered two bump stocks this afternoon at the Austin ATF Field Office in accordance with the ban. Whether bump stocks should be outlawed is a question that Congress must address. Only Congress— and not an administrative agency—has the power to ban these devices. NCLA believes the ATF did not act lawfully in issuing the ban.

On March 21, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a temporary stay of the bump stock ban that applies to another NCLA client, W. Clark Aposhian, a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, who has challenged the ban in federal court. The stay prevents the enforcement of the bump stock ban against Mr. Aposhian while the court consideres his Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal.

“Administrative agencies may not rewrite a law that Congress passed. Yet that is what the ATF and DOJ have done with the bump stock rule. The ban perverts the rule of law and upends our constitutional system.”—Steve Simpson, NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel

“Two different federal Courts of Appeals have ordered the ATF to halt its bump stock rule against legal challengers. Today, rather than abide by an order the ATF had no right to issue, Mr. Cargill will be joining those efforts to resist this unlawful rule.” –Caleb Kruckenberg, NCLA Litigation Counsel

ABOUT NCLA
NCLA is a nonprofit civil rights organization founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the administrative state. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unchecked power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights. For more information visit us online: NCLAlegal.org.

March 29, 2019 | NCLA Challenge to the Bump Stock Ban Continues in Two Federal Courts

Washington, DC (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent refusal to delay the federal ban on bump stocks does not impact the cases being brought by the New Civil Liberties Alliance. NCLA will continue to challenge the Bump Stock Type Devices Final Rule on behalf of two clients who seek to overturn the ban and to halt its enforcement.

On March 22nd, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a temporary stay which only applies to NCLA’s client, W. Clark Aposhian, a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah. The stay prevents the enforcement of the bump stock ban against Mr. Aposhian while the Court considers his Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal.

NCLA also filed a separate lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of Michael Cargill, a resident of Austin, Texas who turned in his bump stock to the local ATF office while his case is pending before the court.

NCLA believes only Congress, not administrative agencies, can write criminal laws such as ATF’s rule banning bump stocks. The courts and the American public need to focus on whether ATF acted lawfully in the way it banned the devices. NCLA’s lawsuits raise key issues about the proper role of administrative agencies, doubt whether agency regulations may contradict a statute passed by Congress and ask whether an agency can retroactively punish lawful purchasers of a device who may not have heard about the ban before it turned them into felons.

Some erroneous media reports have stated that bump stocks convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons. That assertion is simply false. If bump stocks did that, they would have already been illegal, and ATF would not have needed to reinterpret an 85-year-old statute in order to ban them. Such falsehoods detract from the real issue in the case, which is whether ATF can rewrite a statute.

“The wisdom of banning bump stocks is a policy question not implicated in these lawsuits. NCLA is solely focused on the bigger problem of an Administrative State run amok. If ATF and the Department of Justice can write their own criminal laws, as they did here, then all Americans will have reason to fear for their civil liberties, regardless of their personal feelings about gun control.” —Mark Chenoweth, NCLA Executive Director and General Counsel

ABOUT NCLA
NCLA is a nonprofit civil rights organization founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the administrative state. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unchecked power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights. For more information visit us online: NCLAlegal.org.

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