No, ATF Didn't Really Admit To Overstepping On Bump Stock Ban

The bump stock ban should never have happened. I know why it did, but it shouldn’t have. There was zero reason for the ATF to regulate bump stocks into illegality and we all know it. However, it’s a done deal.


However, over the weekend, a report from the agency surfaced that many claimed said that the ATF overstepped and knew it overstepped it’s bounds by regulating bump stocks the way they did.

I didn’t get a chance to read the report, but our friends over at The Truth About Guns did, and guess what they found?

This week there’s been a huge buzz over the bumpiest stocks of them all. You’ve no doubt seen headlines that the ATF “admitted” it lacked the authority to ban bump stocks by slipping them into the NFA. While it’s absolutely true that the rulemaking was illegal, it’s unfortunately not true that the ATF admitted that. I absolutely hate to harsh a good buzz, but it’s important to cut down to the truth.

The articles centered around this issue link back to a press release on NCLA’s ongoing (and very well-done) bump stock litigation, titled “ATF Admits It Lacked Authority to Issue Legislative Rule, NCLA Condemns the Agency’s Attempt to Ban Bump Stocks Anyway.” I believe the source of this confusion is a mix of the confusing way most lawyers speak, and a general unwillingness to read past an article’s headline before re-posting it.

The press release made no claim that the ATF actually admitted a total lack of authority to issue the bump stock rule, but rather that ATF admitted it lacked authority to engage in “legislative rulemaking.” In the ATF’s own meandering, directionless, and painful-to-read 88-page filing, the ATF does indeed admit that the NFA does not “appear to provide the Attorney General the authority to engage in ‘gap-filling’ interpretations of what qualifies as a ‘machinegun.’”

So there you go, right? The ATF just admitted it can’t engage in legislative rulemaking! Well, minor detail: that admission comes after the ATF spent pages upon pages explaining why, in their view, the rulemaking was “interperative” and not “legislative.”


I invite you to go read the whole thing because writer Matthew Larosiere of the Firearms Policy Coalition nails it here. After seeing this, I found the report and read it myself. Larosiere is right. The ATF made no such admission.

It’s not that I agree with the ATF’s argument. I don’t. I’m pretty sure Larosiere doesn’t either. However, we’re not discussing whether or not they’re right, but whether or not they admitted they were wrong.

They didn’t.

Now, the mental gymnastics they had to engage in made Simone Biles look like a fat kid who accidentally got shipped off to gymnast camp. It’s really quite impressive, to be sure. But what it doesn’t do is claim they overstepped their authority by regulating bump stocks. Instead, they claim that their ability to redefine bump stocks was “interpretative” even though the bump stock clearly doesn’t meet the requirements of a machinegun.

While gun rights activists rejoiced, too few of them bothered to read up. If they had, there would have been less cause to celebrate.

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