AFTER 2017'S MASS shooting in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump vowed to ban bump stocks, a type of firearm accessory that the shooter reportedly used. "We can do that with an executive order," Trump declared. "They're working on it right now, the lawyers."
The lawyers at the Department of Justice (DOJ) came up with a new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulation "to clarify that [bump stocks] are 'machineguns' as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968" because "such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger." The federal ban on machine guns, in other words, would be interpreted by the Trump administration to ban bump stocks too.
That unilateral executive action has now come under fire from two federal judges appointed by Trump himself.
On March 2, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch issued a statement respecting the denial of certiorari in Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The executive branch "used to tell everyone that bump stocks don't qualify as 'machineguns.' Now it says the opposite." Yet "the law hasn't changed, only an agency's interpretation of it," Gorsuch complained. "Flow, in all of this, can ordinary citizens be expected to keep up.... And why should courts, charged with the independent and neutral interpretation of the laws Congress has...