AG Knudsen Leads 22-State SCOTUS Brief Against Federal Firearm Accessory Ban
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: April 7, 2022

From the State Attorney General’s Office

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading a coalition of 21 other state attorneys general in defense of the Second Amendment, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) rulemaking that would immediately transform hundreds of thousands of law-abiding gun owners into criminals.

The attorneys general filed an amicus brief today in the Gun Owners of America v. Merrick Garland case saying that the ATF’s Final Rule on Bump-Stock-Type Devices contravened federal law – as well as longstanding ATF policy – when it informed owners of bump stocks that they must surrender or destroy their bump stocks to avoid criminal liability.

A United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit panel rightly ruled against the ATF in March of last year, concluding that bump stock accessories do not transform commonly used semi-automatic firearms into “machineguns.” Following that ruling, the full Sixth Circuit Court allowed the ATF’s rule to stand, after an even split only allowed it to issue an order affirming the district court.

“This significance of this case goes beyond any firearm accessory and gun rights. No federal agency should be able to create criminal code without Congressional authorization,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “The Supreme Court must take up this important case to uphold the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment and affirm this important check on the federal executive’s power.”

“Actions like the ATF’s do not just violate important principles of administrative law.  They also illustrate how the government can endanger fundamental rights through creeping, incremental, and seemingly benign regulatory depredations,” the brief states. “If Congress had wanted to categorically expand the NFA to cover semiautomatic firearms that use a bump-stock accessory, it would—and must—have done so explicitly.”

Through its rulemaking, the ATF overreached and attempted to regulate bump stock accessories by asserting they transform the firearms they are attached to into “machineguns” as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). Semiautomatic rifles are some of America’s most popular firearms.  Millions of law-abiding gun owners depend on these rifles for security, safety, and sporting purposes.  Bump stocks replace the standard stock of these firearms and assist the shooter in “bump firing,” which increases the rate of fire.  They do not transform semi-automatic rifles into automatic machineguns.

“The Final Rule effectively transforms commonly owned firearms into banned machineguns simply because of the use of non-mechanical bump stock accessories.  This interpretation categorically expands the text of the criminal statute in a way that Congress couldn’t possibly have intended,” the brief states. “And it expands criminal liability at the expense of Second Amendment rights, diminishing the latter absent a sufficient and compelling justification.  When the ATF—or any agency—invades protected rights by interpreting statutes too broadly, this Court should step in.”

The ATF’s bump stock rule is an attempt to contravene Congress and rewrite a statute with no evidence that Congress intended such an interpretation. The ATF itself recognized that “bump firing” has been around for as long as there have been semi-automatic firearms and that common items such as rubber bands, belt loops, and shoestrings can all be used to the same effect as the accessory they are attempting to criminalize.

Click here to read the full brief.

Attorneys general from West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming also signed on in support.

Attorney General Knudsen continues to be a stalwart defender of Montanans’ gun rights and the Second Amendment. He has led or joined amicus briefs in seven firearms-related cases and is fighting attempts to overturn new state law that expanded Montanans’ gun rights