WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a closely watched challenge to the Trump administration’s move to ban bump stock devices in the wake of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The Trump administration moved to ban bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic weapons to mimic how automatic weapons fire, after a mass shooter killed 58 people and injured hundreds more at a concert in Las Vegas using guns equipped with the devices.
To do this, the administration interpreted a federal law that makes machine guns illegal as applying to bump stocks, after years of regulating to the contrary.
A group of gun owners and gun rights groups challenged the ban, but a federal judge in 2019 denied the request to block the ban from taking effect, ruling the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was within its rights to apply the machine gun ban to bump stocks.
The D.C. Circuit upheld that decision in April 2019, applying the administrative law doctrine known as Chevron deference, under which courts defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous laws they administer.
This reliance earned a four-page rebuke from Justice Neil Gorsuch, who has been a critic of the doctrine in the past. While agreeing the case was not ready for the high court’s review, he expressed concern about the use of Chevron deference, arguing it leaves citizens unable to comply with sometimes unpredictable changes to federal regulations.
“The agency used to tell everyone that bump stocks don’t qualify as ‘machineguns,'” the Trump appointee wrote. “Now it says the opposite. The law hasn’t changed, only an agency’s interpretation of it. And these days it sometimes seems agencies change their statutory interpretations almost as often as elections change administrations.”