The United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that bump stocks are not machine guns in the United States v. Ali Alkazahg. the decision came down on September 7th, 2021
Marine Corp Private Ali Akazahg was convicted of possessing two machine guns, in violation of Articles 83, 107, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice [UCMJ] . These “machine guns” that Private Akazahg processed were bump stocks. The Private’s defense counsel argued that bump stocks did not meet the federal definition of machine guns. The ruling is found here and embedded below. US Military Courts Rules Bump Stocks Are Not Machine Guns.✎ EditSign
A three-judge panel agreed with the defense, unanimously ruled that bump stocks do not meet the definition of a machine gun.
The judges laid out a case that anti-gun activists put political pressure on Congress after a mass murder in Las Vegas that saw 60 people die. A bill was set forth in Congress called “Closing the Bump Stock Loophole.” The bill would have treated bump stocks as machine guns. The bill failed to pass either chamber of Congress.
The judges point out that after the bill failed in Congress that political pressure was put on then President Trump to act against bump stocks. The President said he was “looking into” banning bump stocks. Ultimately President Trump would order the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives [ATF] to ban bump stocks. The judges on the panel do not believe that the President had the authority to make de facto law.
The judges wrote: “Instead, the President directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives [ATF] to issue a new interpretation of a rule—that contradicted the ATF’s previous interpretation—governing legislation from the 1930s. This Executive-Branch change in statutory interpretation aimed to outlaw bump stocks prospectively, without a change in existing statutes.”
The judges carefully go over the history of the bump stocks in their decision. They highlighted that the ATF never considered bump stocks to be machine guns until President Trump ordered the Bureau to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns. The panel points to the original letter issued to William Akins in 2002 for his “Akins Accelerator.” The level of detail shows the judges heavily researched the topic before issuing their decision. The original Akins Accelerator used a spring.
In 2006 the ATF reversed course and ruled the Akins Accelerator was a machine gun. Mr. Akins filed for a summary judgment in district court and lost. The judges in the case stated that a “single function of the trigger” means a “single pull of the trigger.” Since the Akins Accelerator used a spring, it was a machine gun. If the Accelerator didn’t have a spring, it would not have been considered a machine gun.
Modern bump stocks use recoil and do not contain a spring, and use recoil. Every shot requires a trigger pull. Since each shot was a single pull of the trigger, the judges ruled that bump stocks could not be considered machine guns.
The judges also point out the classification of bump stocks as machine guns relied on Chevron deference. The panel points out that the courts have not settled if the ATF can use Chevron deference to make bump stocks machine guns. They point to the GOA case in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and highlighted other instances in which the courts say that the government cannot use Chevron deference for a criminal statute.