White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said President Biden plans to use his executive power to implement more gun control.
The timing is uncertain, she said, but it’s coming.
“When the president was the vice president in the Obama-Biden administration, he helped put in place 23 executive actions to combat gun violence. It’s one of the levers that we can use,” Psaki said.
A court ruling Friday, however, may make Biden’s effort more difficult.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio ruled that former President Trump’s ban on bump stocks is unconstitutional and should no longer be enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
This case was brought by Gun Owners of America, Gun Owners Foundation, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Matt Watkins, Tim Harmsen of the Military Arms Channel and GOA’s Texas director, Rachel Malone.
“Today’s court decision is great news and told gun owners what they already knew,” said GOA Senior Vice President Erich Pratt. “We are glad the court applied the statute accurately, and struck down the ATF’s illegal overreach and infringement of gun owners’ rights.”
The case was filed when the federal government in 2018 determined that modified semi-automatic rifles should be classified as machine guns, which U.S. civilians are prohibited from owning.
The ATF had given owners just 90 days to destroy their bump stocks or face a possible prison term of 10 years. The device harnesses a gun’s recoil to “bump” the trigger faster. It suddenly grew in prominence when one was used by the gunman in Las Vegas to kill 58 people shooting from a hotel room.
Federal authorities previously concluded bump stocks were merely a gun accessory and were not subject to federal regulation.
But a 157-page report by the federal government found that what previously had been considered an accessory was now a “machine gun.”
The 2-1 decision by Judge Alice Batchelder said the ATF’s “Final Rule” on the issue “is not the best interpretation” of the law.
She noted the government’s definition of machine gun was, and remains: “The term ‘machinegun’ means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for us in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of partys from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”
Bump stocks replace a gun’s standard stock. The shooter must maintain constant rearward pressure with the trigger hand, keeping the trigger finger stationary, while maintaining constant forward pressure with the non-trigger hand. The firearm slides back and forth slightly and uses the recoil of the weapon to fire subsequent shots. While only one shot is fired each time the trigger is depressed, the mechanism allows the process to be completed “faster than would otherwise be possible.”
At the time of the Las Vegas shooting, President Trump directed the government to find a way to ban bump stocks.
The ruling said it is up to a community to determine what should be criminally punished, and “the people determine for themselves – through their legislators – what is right and wrong.”
“It is not the role of the executive – particularly the unelected administrative state – to dictate to the public what is right and what is wrong.”
The stakes are high, the court said, since the threat of felony convictions and prison time loomed over those who bought items that, at the time of purchase, were perfectly legal.
“Our holding that a bump stock does not fall within the statutory definition of a machine gun because a bump stock does not cause a firearm to fire more than one shot by a single function of the trigger is sufficient to resolve this appeal.”
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