WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge has upheld the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks, the rapid-fire gun attachment that was used in the 2017 slaughter of 58 Las Vegas concertgoers, which left nearly 900 injured.
Gun owners Damien Guedes and David Codrea, along with several gun rights groups, had found to temporarily block the ban on procedural grounds.
In addition to arguing that the Justice Department failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures, they alleged that then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker lacked the authority to implement it under the appointments clause of the Constitution.
But U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, herself a Trump appointee, ruled late Monday that the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives made a reasonable determination in concluding that bump stocks produce the same results as machine guns, which are illegal.
“Most of the plaintiffs’ administrative law challenges are foreclosed by the Chevron doctrine, which permits an agency to reasonably define undefined statutory terms,” the 64-page opinion says.
Friedrich noted that Congress had defined machine gun under the National Firearms Act of 1934 “to include devices that permit a firearm to shoot ‘automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.’”
While the Justice Department previously opted in 2010 to closely regulate, but not ban bump stocks, the agency concluded this past December, following a year of rulemaking and weighing public comment, that bump stocks constitute machine guns under the National Firearms Act of 1934.
“That this decision marked a reversal of ATF’s previous interpretation is not a basis for invalidating the rule because ATF’s current interpretation is lawful and ATF adequately explained the change in interpretation,” Freidrich wrote.
Given that Congress did not expand upon what “automatically” and “single function of the trigger” meant, Friedrich said the ATF acted within its rights when it reinterpreted the language to include bump stocks.
Friedrich also determined the ATF responded adequately to public comments on the proposed ban, including to objections the plaintiffs had raised.
She also shot down the argument that President Donald Trump unconstitutionally appointed Whitaker as acting attorney general, determining that his designation in the post constituted a presidential appointment under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.
The bump stock ban is set to take effect on March 26 and will require those who own bump stocks to either destroy them or turn them over to an ATF office.
The devices allow gun owners to effectively transform semiautomatic rifles into machine guns. Calls to ban them reached a crescendo after Stephen Paddock used one to one to carry out the worst mass shooting in modern American history, firing more than 1,000 rounds in roughly 15 minutes from his hotel room at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The plaintiffs in the consolidated cases appealed to the D.C. Circuit within minutes of Friedrich’s ruling.
“While we had hoped for a quick and positive outcome at the trial court level, we have been and remain committed to litigating these issues as much as it takes to completely resolve the cases and protect Americans from a rogue and growing executive branch, including by petitioning the United States Supreme Court if necessary,” the Firearms Policy Coalition, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement.