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Garland v. Cargill

CASE: Garland, et al. v. Michael Cargill

STATUS: Active

NCLA ROLE: Counsel


ORIGINAL COURT: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

DECIDING COURT: U.S. Supreme Court

OPENED: March 25, 2019

AGENCIES: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms | Department of Justice


Guidance Abuse

Agency guidance is easier to promulgate than formal rules and regulations, so agencies prefer to issue it. Such “guidance” supplies relatively informal indications of how an agency interprets rules and statutes. Although guidance is not permitted to bind Americans (unlike laws made by elected legislators), agencies treat guidance as binding and courts often fail to stop them.

Judicial Deference

Deference doctrines require judges to defer to an administrative agency’s fact finding, or its interpretation of statutes and regulations. Thus, judges surrender their independent judgment and, where the government is a party, must exhibit systematic bias in the government’s favor, which denies due process of law to the other litigant.

Scope of Authority / Nondelegation

The structure of the Constitution allows only Congress to legislate, only the Executive to enforce laws, and only the Judiciary to decide cases. But the Administrative State evades the Constitution’s avenues of governance when executive agencies issue regulations without statutory authorization from Congress.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and will hear this case during the 2023-24 term. Before reaching SCOTUS, NCLA won a decisive victory before an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A federal statute outlaws machine guns, not bump stock devices that attach to a rifle and allow it to fire many shots in succession. For years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives correctly concluded that firearms equipped with bump stocks are not illegal machine guns under federal law, but in 2018 the agency switched course and branded firearms with the devices “machine guns”, which are federally banned. That switch threatened to instantly turn half a million people, including Texas gun shop owner, Army veteran and firearms instructor Michael Cargill, into criminals who could face a 10-year prison sentence for owning something the government had told them was legal to possess when they bought it.

Mr. Cargill bought two bump stocks in April 2018, relying on ATF’s clear conclusion that they were entirely legal to own and use. NCLA represents him in a constitutional lawsuit that challenges ATF’s effort to rewrite a federal statute. If bump stocks are to be banned, Congress must make that decision and exercise the authority to ban them. If an agency such as ATF can rewrite a statute as it pleases, then any agency can do so the same. The Fifth Circuit agreed with NCLA and, having been granted cert, NCLA is confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the Fifth Circuit’s ruling that bump stocks are not machine guns, thus safeguarding Americans’ rights.

Michael Cargill, Plaintiff

Mark Chenoweth
President and Chief Legal Officer
Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
Philip Hamburger
Chief Executive Officer
Zhonette Brown
General Counsel and Senior Litigation Counsel

Reply Brief for the Petitioners

February 16, 2024 | Read More

Brief for the National Rifle Association of America, Inc. as Amicus Curiae in Support of the Respondent

January 29, 2024 | Read More

Brief Amicus Curiae of Gun Owners Of America, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of California, Heller Foundation, Tennessee Firearms Association, Tennessee Firearms Foundation, Virginia Citizens Defense League, Grass Roots North Carolina, Rights Watch International, America’s Future, U.S. Constitutional Rights Legal Defense Fund, and Conservative Legal Defense And Education Fund in Support of Respondent

January 29, 2024 | Read More

Brief of National Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers As Amicus Curiae In Support of Respondent

January 29, 2024 | Read More

Brief of the National Association for Gun Rights, Inc., the National Foundation for Gun Rights, Inc., and Rare Breed Triggers, LLC, as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent

January 29, 2024 | Read More


Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in NCLA’s Cargill Case Against ATF’s Unilateral Bump Stock Ban

February 28, 2024 | Read More

Numerous Amici Join NCLA’s Ask for Supreme Court to Rule Against ATF’s Unilateral Bump Stock Ban

February 2, 2024 | Read More

NCLA Asks Supreme Court to Rule Against ATF’s Unilateral Bump-Stock Ban

January 23, 2024 | Read More

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear NCLA Case Against ATF’s Unilateral Bump-Stock Ban

November 3, 2023 | Read More

NCLA Endorses Request for U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on ATF’s Unilateral Bump Stock Ban

June 8, 2023 | Read More


Will SCOTUS Finally Send ATF’s Bump Stock Ban Back To Congress?

February 28, 2024

How to Defeat the Administrative State

February 22, 2024

Beyond the Statute: Government "Logic" and the Cargill Case


February 1, 2024

Michael Cargills Bump Stock Lawsuit

Come and Talk It with Michael Cargill

February 7, 2023

Austin Gun Rights Activist Sues ATF Over Bump Stock Ban

February 7, 2023




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