Bump Stock Ban Lawsuit: Gun Rights Advocate Sues Trump Administration, Says Ban Unconstitutional

Following the decision by President Donald Trump's administration to classify bump stocks as machine guns, thereby outlawing them, a gun rights advocate sued the administration to try to prevent the ban from becoming law.

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, a gun rights organization, filed the lawsuit against the Trump administration in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, according to KTSU. In the lawsuit, he argued that banning bump stocks makes criminals out of people who previously acquired the firearm accessory legally.

"The acting attorney general's purported interpretation will make owners of the estimated 520,000 lawfully acquired bump stocks into felons, despite the lack of a statutory prohibition on these items," the lawsuit stated, according to KTSU.

The lawsuit also argued that the ban on bump stocks was unconstitutional because the executive branch didn't have the power to rewrite laws, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. That power, according to Caleb Kruckenberg, who is representing Aposhian, belongs to Congress. At its most basic level, Kruckenberg told The Salt Lake Tribune that the lawsuit was about constitutional order and who has the power to make laws.

"The Constitution was very deliberate. It said that Congress makes the laws through a bicameral process and then presents it to the president for signature. And that's how we make laws and how we bind citizens to their obligations," Kruckenberg said. "And this turns that whole process upside down."

bump stock ban lawsuit trump admin
A 7.62 X 39 mm round sits next a a 30 round magazine and an AK-47 with a bump stock installed at Good Guys Gun and Range on February 21 in Orem, Utah. On Wednesday, a gun rights advocate from Utah filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration after bump stocks were banned. George Frey/Getty Images

Although Congress hasn't yet passed a law prohibiting the possession of bump stocks, as of March 26, all bump stocks will be considered illegal because of a change in classification. In December, the Department of Justice announced that regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were amended to include bump stocks under the definition of "machine gun."

Machine guns are illegal under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act, and therefore, the reclassification of bump stocks made the accessory illegal as well. The ban reversed a previous ATF decision, which it made in 2010, and sent in a letter to Slide Fire, a bump stock manufacturer.

"The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed," then-ATF technology chief John Spencer said. "Accordingly, we find that the 'bump-stock' is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under [the] Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act."

Given that the ATF previously hadn't considered all bump stocks to be machine guns as defined by law, Kruckenger told The Salt Lake Tribune that the organization didn't have the authority to change that definition.

"We filed this lawsuit because we are dedicated to restoring Americans' fundamental right to be represented by elected lawmakers and not by lawless administrative edicts," Kruckenberg told Newsweek. "The bump stock rule represents a clear example of an administrative agency attempting to evade the constitution by rewriting a law that Congress did pass."

Kruckenberg works as litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance and said that the organization didn't have a position on bump stocks. The decision to take the case was based solely on the organization's founding principle that constitutional order must be protected.

Both the Department of Justice and the ATF are named in the lawsuit, and Aposhian is seeking an injunction blocking the rule from going into effect, according to KTSU.

This isn't the only lawsuit to be filed in an attempt to stop the ban from going into place. In December, Gun Owners of America, a gun activist group, filed a lawsuit in Western Michigan, which challenged the legality of the ATF's actions. It also cited the ATF's previous decision about bump stocks and said the reclassification was a "political decision designed to circumvent the legislative process."

The Department of Justice's decision came after Trump faced pressure to ban bump stocks following the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, in which 58 people died. The alleged shooter used a bump stock to modify his firearm and give it the capability to fire multiple rounds without repeatedly pulling the trigger.

Praised by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, the rule will take effect on March 26. The date selected gave bump stock owners 90 days from when it was published in the Federal Register to destroy the device or dropoff the accessory at an ATF office.

This article has been updated to include comments from Caleb Kruckenberg.