Texas gun store owner says Supreme Court should limit government ‘power’ in ‘bump stock’ ban case

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear a challenge to a federal ban on gun “bump stocks” in a case that could affect thousands of gun-owning Americans.

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The case, Garland v. Cargill, presents the question whether a “bump stock” device is a “machine gun” as defined by federal law because it is designed and intended for use in converting a rifle into a weapon that fires “automatically more than one shot … by a single function of the trigger.” 

After a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 60 people dead and 500 more wounded, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued an interpretive rule concluding that “bump stocks” are machine guns.

A “bump stock” is an attachment that allows a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic weapon’s “cyclic firing rate to mimic nearly continuous automatic fire,” according to the ATF.

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US Supreme Court building

The U.S. Supreme Court  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Semi-automatic rifles with “bump stocks” could fire hundreds of rounds per minute, according to experts.

They were originally created to make it easier for people with disabilities to fire a gun. The device essentially replaces the gun’s stock and pistol grip and causes the weapon to buck back and forth, repeatedly “bumping” the trigger against the shooter’s finger.

Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works, sued the government after he was forced to surrender several “bump stocks” under the ATF’s rule. 

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Vince Warner fires an AK-47 with a bump stock installed at Good Guys Gun and Range

A man fires an AK-47 with a “bump stock” installed at Good Guys Gun and Range Feb. 21, 2018, in Orem, Utah. The “bump stock” is a device that, when installed, allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire at a rapid rate, much like a fully automatic gun.  (George Frey/Getty Images)

“It really goes back to … freedom. And it goes back to just the basics of something that my customers and myself legally purchase. The government should not have that power, that authority in an administrative agency … to come back and ban that. You know, something that Congress has not banned. That’s going to be a job that’s reserved for Congress,” Cargill said in an interview with Fox News Digital. 

“And I don’t think, you know, that the Supreme Court intended for an agency to actually do something to this extent.”

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Cargill said he opened his business because he wanted to teach people how to properly handle and shoot guns.

“I wanted them to know what the laws were. I wanted them to follow the law. And, so, that’s why I focus my business model on training and classes. Because we want to make sure that we’re doing everything right,” Cargill said. 

When the ATF rule was changed, Cargill realized that it caused a problem for him and his customers because it made illegal what had previously been legal by reinterpreting the machine gun ban to cover “bump stocks.”

BUMP stock

A “bump stock” is displayed March 15, 2019, in Harrisonburg, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

“It posed a problem, and we wanted to fix that problem,” Cargill said. 

Cargill said many of his customers who purchased “bump stocks” were military veterans with disabilities. 

“Just recently, I had the opportunity to teach a young man how to shoot again who has no arms and hands. And, so, I taught him how to shoot with his feet. So, we have people that come to us for, you know, different disabilities, and we try to find a way to help them,” Cargill explained.  

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Three appeals courts agreed with the ATF’s pre-2018 position that non-mechanical “bump stocks” are not “machine gun[s],” while two other appeals courts agreed with ATF’s present-day interpretation.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) is arguing the case on behalf of Cargill.

Mark Chenoweth, NCLA president and general counsel, said, “This is not a case about gun rights. It is a case about administrative power.”

“Congress never gave ATF the power to rewrite federal criminal statutes pertaining to machine guns, nor could it. Writing federal criminal laws is the sole preserve of Congress, and the Trump and Biden administrations committed grievous constitutional error by trying to ban ‘bump stocks’ without involving Congress. We are confident the U.S. Supreme Court will right this wrong for Michael Cargill and all Americans.”

The Supreme Court will hear arguments at 10 a.m. Wednesday. 

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