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Bump Stocks Aren’t Machine Guns (& Other Shocking Truths)



Neither are silencers. Just sayin’.

Shocking Truth #1: Nobody Elected the ATF.

If you have noticed the fact that a bump stock is not a machine gun, then you have proven that you are smarter than the ATF. If you’ve noticed the fact that there are a lot of unelected government employees making politically motivated rules without any feedback from voters, then you’ve already proven that you’re smarter than Joe Biden. If you’ve noticed the fact that these unelected government employees are creating rules that could transform a law-abiding citizen into a felon overnight, then you see the problem here.

Shocking Truth #2: Tragedies Never Create Good Legislation.

Five years ago, a monster used a gun fitted with a bump stock to murder dozens in Las Vegas. The nation was stunned and revolted. That’s normal and natural. The problem is that shock and revulsion do not make for good laws, even if those laws are in fact necessary. Whenever there’s a tragedy, emotion rules the day … and emotion almost never results in clear, enforceable rules. That’s why the Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution the way they did: So rules are only created by the people we specifically elected to write rules.

Shocking Truth #3: You Do Not Want Patty and Selma Overseeing Your Rights.

Patty and Selma from The Simpsons are fictional characters … sort of. Certainly, not all government employees are lazy, petty creatures whose sole joy comes from stamping “DENIED” on your paperwork. There must be a few out there who don’t mind it when Americans exercise their rights in peace. If you find one, please let me know.

All of the above not-so-shocking truths mean that whether or not you ever wanted or owned a bump stock, the recent Fifth Circuit ruling means a great deal to your life. Today, we have the NSSF’s Larry Keane to break it all down for you.



By Larry Keane

An appeals court ruling that struck the Trump-era rule banning bump stocks could have a much wider-reaching impact than just the plastic accessory.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overwhelmingly ruled that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) overstepped its authority when it published a Final Rule that classified bump stocks as “machineguns.” The Trump-era ban was in reaction to the heinous crimes by a depraved murderer in Las Vegas in 2017. The murderer used bump stocks in the commission of his crimes.

“A plain reading of the statutory language, paired with close consideration of the mechanics of a semi-automatic firearm, reveals that a bump stock is excluded from the technical definition of “machinegun” set forth in the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act,” the majority opinion states.

That’s not the most important part of the decision. The teeth of the decision has more to do with process – something most Americans learned in their fifth grade civics lessons.

Separation of Powers

Simply put, the federal government operates on a principle of Separation of Powers. Congress, the Legislative Branch, writes the laws. The White House, the Executive Branch, enforces the laws and the courts, the Judicial Branch, decides if laws are Constitutional.

“The Government’s regulation violates these principles. As an initial matter, it purports to allow ATF – rather than Congress – to set forth the scope of criminal prohibitions. Indeed, the Government would outlaw bump stocks by administrative fiat even though the very same agency routinely interpreted the ban on machineguns as not applying to the type of bump stocks at issue here,” the opinion states. “Nor can we say that the statutory definition unambiguously supports the Government’s interpretation. As noted above, we conclude that it unambiguously does not. But even if we are wrong, the statute is at least ambiguous in this regard. And if the statute is ambiguous, Congress must cure that ambiguity, not the federal courts.”

Put simply, Congress set the definition of “machineguns” under the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1968 Gun Control Act. Only Congress has the authority to modify that definition. Congress alone – the direct representatives of “We the People” – has authority to draft laws and decide what is legal and illegal. The Executive Branch, in this case the ATF as an agent of the Executive Branch, is charged with executing the law. The courts are charged with arbitrating what is law under the Constitution and ensuring that there is a separation of powers.

The Fifth Circuit found that in this case, the Executive Branch got it wrong. The ATF cannot redefine “machineguns” on their own. That authority rests with Congress. The ATF can only enforce what Congress agrees upon as legislation and the President of the United States signs into law. An agency within the Executive Branch doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to draft rules that act with the force of law on their own. That’s executive fiat and it’s unconstitutional.

The Effect

From here, it gets complicated. The ATF agreed for more than a decade that bump stocks were not “machineguns” but an accessory. That changed, albeit with intense public pressure and threats of legislation from Congress. This was the most recent challenge, but it wasn’t the only one to challenge the legality of the bump stock rule.

Previous challenges upheld the rule, including decisions by the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit, Tenth Circuit and District of Columbia Circuit. The split among the circuit courts on this question may lead to the U.S. Supreme Court stepping in to decide the issue.

The Fifth Circuit’s decision, however, may have far more reaching implications to what is known as the “administrative state” – where government agencies, not Congress, make laws through regulations and rules.

This ruling could become a harbinger for two more rules finalized by the ATF. The ATF published the Frame & Receiver Final Rule that defined Privately Made Firearms (PMFs) that are sold in a complete kit, or are “readily convertible,” as firearms and regulated as such. That was a departure from previous definitions, just like the decision by the ATF to depart from previous definitions and regulate an accessory like the bump stock as a “machinegun.” In essence, the ATF expanded the definition of a firearm, which the Fifth Circuit said is beyond its authority.

The ATF is also expected to publish a Final Rule based on the Stabilizing Brace Proposed Rule. That could be forthcoming any day. The proposed rule included a four-part test the determine whether a pistol firearm equipped with a pistol brace is defined as a pistol or short-barreled rifle. Short-barreled rifles (SBRs) are regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act, like “machineguns,” and individuals possessing one must pass additional (and redundant) background checks, submit photos, fingerprints, notify their chief law enforcement officer and pay a $200 tax to obtain a stamp from the ATF. Individuals owning them must also notify the ATF any time that short-barrel rifle is moved from their residence, including submission of travel plans and when the SBR will be returned to the residence to which it is listed. Like with bump stocks, ATF had long ruled that stabilizing pistol braces when affixed to an AR-style pistol did not convert the pistol into a short-barreled rifle or shotgun. The parallels to the bump stock rule are self-evident.

Has ATF again impermissibly redefined firearm definitions and exceeded its authority?   The courts will certainly be asked to decide this important question.

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling is more than a question over a firearm accessory. It gets to the heart of the matter. Can the ATF – working on behalf of a president – rewrite law on their own? The court says it can’t. That is the responsibility, and the role, of Congress.



  1. Robot, I'm not a

    January 23, 2023 at 11:32 am

    Do not claim God gave you rights when you know it was man all along. 1 Corinthians 1:25

  2. Thomas Paine

    January 14, 2023 at 3:26 am

    Stop spreading the falsehood that Paddock shot up the concert in Las Vegas! You can clearly hear belt fed machine guns in the videos!

  3. Alan

    January 13, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    I’m out of practice now, but when I was shooting rifle competition on a regular basis, using Model 70 Winchester Target Rifles, 5 shot stripper clip loading bolt action rifles, I regularly fired 10 round strings, 5 rounds in the rifle, with a 5 round reload at 200 yards from a sitting position in about 56 seconds out of 60 seconds allowed. Interestingly, due to visual impairment, I fired right handed bolt action rifles Left Handed. My “score” would have been a lot greater that that of the Las Vegas Shooter was. By the way, I held an Expert Rifleman classification, which was Middle of The Road. Marksman and Sharpshooter were lower level classifications, Master and High Master were higher classifications. As for the ATF, more properly the BATFE, regarding firearms enforcement, they and their regulations are a very bad joke.

  4. Alan

    January 13, 2023 at 7:50 pm

    Be interesting to see how this cookie finally crumbles.

  5. GomeznSA

    January 13, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    Too many folks forget (intentionally?) that ‘bump firing’ is a TECHNIQUE, not a particular piece of hardware. IIRC that technique was discovered in the late ’50s, and probably by accident.

    Remember that the same effect can be accomplished by using such exotic things as shoe strings and belt loops, presuming you know how to do it and are coordinated enough. The ban was a classic example of bureaucratic over reach by unelected individuals who are NOT law makers

  6. TexasPatriot

    January 13, 2023 at 3:29 pm

    LOL – you mention Biden in the article, but forgot it was TRUMP who took away my bump stock!

    • Larry

      January 15, 2023 at 4:07 am

      No reread the article the author did mention Trump not Biden in regards to the bump stocks.

  7. James

    January 13, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Repeal the illegal 1934 gangster gun control act now.

    Back in 1918, there was a vocal group who wanted all alcohol banned ( sound familiar?) and they convinced the politiicians to do that, claiming everything would be ” peaches and cream” if all alcohol was banned. (Just like the far leftist, George Soros run gun banning groups of today.)

    Well, we all know how that turned out. Soon there was a huge demand for illegal booze. Huge amounts of money could be made selling illegal booze.
    Bootleggers soon popped up across the country supplying illegal booze.
    Rival bootleggers soon had shoot outs over territory.
    Underground bars popped up all over the country. Soon, even the politiicians who voted for probation were going to underground bars to drink. It became a big joke.

    Bank robberies increased. Bank robbery gangs would steal guns from national guard armory, police departments, and army bases. Unlike today, many weren’t open 24 hours a day or had any type of guards on duty.

    Many big shoot outs happened.
    Many banks had no insurance to cover bank robberies.

    The public said to the politiicians ” you have to do something!” ( Sound familiar?)

    So the FDR administration looked at how Nazi Germany passed laws banning gold and guns and they copied them.
    The FDR administration blamed the ordinary citizen for the depression, when they n fact it was FDR’s buddies in the stock market and wall street that caused the depression.

    Many in the FDR administration wanted to ban all handguns.

    So the FDR administration passed the 1934 gun control act.

    We no longer have bank robbers riding on sideboard of cars robbing banks.
    Today bank robbers use computers to rob banks.

    We no longer have bootleggers and booze runners riding on sideboard shooting at rival bootleggers.

    There is no reason to ban putting shoulder stocks on handguns. They certainly aren’t concealable with a shoulder stock.
    If it’s a handgun, and one puts a shoulder stock on it and then it’s a sawed off rifle? Huh?
    But if one takes off the shoulder stock it’s a handgun again. This makes no sense at all.
    Make it legal to put a shoulder stock on a handgun.

    Trapper lever action rifles were very popular up until 1934.
    They had barrels of 12″, 13″, 14″, 15″. No one seems to know why trapper rifles were added to the 1934 gun control act.
    Make short barrel trapper lever action rifles legal again.

    Silencers or sound suppressors were added because some joker with the fish and game department
    had a senator for a friend and told him to add silencers to the bill to stop poaching!

    In many European countries today, hunters are required to use silencers when hunting as to not frightened people.
    Only in America are they restricted.

    Several articles said that the politiicians of that time were confused of the wording and restrictions placed by the 1934 gun control act, but voted for it anyways .How stupid.

    Many of the politiicians were in their 60’s and 70’s, meaning that they were born back in the 1860’s to 1870’s, how many even went to school or even finished school back then?

    Many demoncrap politicians want even more restrictions on guns. Most get money from gun banning groups and George Soros and Michael Bloomberg.

    China wants all guns banned in America. China says it’s illegal for Chinese citizens to own firearms. Only the police, military and politiicians can own firearms.
    China even wants the evil U.N. to order guns to be banned in America.
    During WW2, Germany and Japan had plans to invade the east coast and west coast of America and have Mexico invade the southern states promising Mexico to give them Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas but they were all afraid of all the Americans who owned firearms and would fight them off. Nowadays, they are joining up to ban all firearms in America. The evil Brady group is helping foreign countries to sue gun companies in America to stop all gun sales. The Brady group is a traitor to America and all Americans!

    Why is it that back in the 1950’s, one could walk into a hardware store, gun shop, or mail order all kinds of firearms with no background check, no federal forms to fill out, and no waiting period, and crime was much lower back then?

    Bye dumb wants all magazines over 8 rounds banned! How soon before the gun banning politicians say 5 rounds is high capacity?

    Now is time to repeal the illegal 1934 gangster gun control act.

    • Alan

      January 13, 2023 at 8:25 pm

      Our law makers, very badly, need to carefully read the foregoing. Then they need to act on it. They probably won’t, but they really should.

    • Patrick Dean

      January 28, 2023 at 2:34 am

      Very good response!!! I recommend that everyone who read the above article read your reply. Thank you for your reply. I even learned a couple of things from it. Thank you.

  8. Rusty Baillie

    January 13, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Sorry folks.
    We don’t need bumpstocks but we do need braces.
    However, the precedent issue and the containment of the ATF is important.
    So…..Congress just has to get it’s act together and pass proper and relevant legislation……..instead of playing it’s own games!
    Let’s be responsible as well as democratic.

    • Big Al 45

      January 13, 2023 at 2:27 pm

      You speak of Democracy and “need” all in the same paragraph just as though they were the same.
      “Need” has NOTHING to do with this subject, and Democracy is NOT subject to the definition of “need” by ANY ONE individual or group.
      I would point out that one of our Founding Fathers defined Democracy as two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
      We are a Representative Republic bound by Constitutionally Enumerated Rights, with Democratic Institutions, and our laws are not subject to the ideals of those who would determine for us what they think we “need”.
      That’s called Fascism.
      And that’s currently disguised as the BATFE

      • Crimson

        January 28, 2023 at 2:39 am

        Applause!!!! Applause!!!! Applause!!!!

  9. Archangel

    January 13, 2023 at 10:51 am

    Hopefully similar logic is applied the BS pistol brace overstep

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