NCLA Amicus Brief Challenges DC District Court's Reliance on Chevron in Bump Stock Case

3/11/2019, 10:02 PM (Source: GlobeNewswire)

Washington, DC, March 11, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today the New Civil Liberties Alliance filed an amicus curiae brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in support of the appellants in Guedes v. ATF and Correa v. Barr. Their preliminary injunction requests to stop the Bump Stock Type Devices Final Rule from taking effect were rejected by a U.S. District Court in Washington, DC late last month. NCLA filed the brief on its own behalf and on behalf of its client, Clark Aposhian, whom NCLA represents in a separate bump stock lawsuit pending in Utah. 


The Final Rule issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) bans the possession of all bump-fire stocks and takes effect March 26th, turning an estimated 520,000 owners of bump stock devices into felons unless they destroy or surrender the accessory by that date.  

NCLA is particularly concerned with the DC district court’s decision to invoke Chevron deference in accepting the ATF’s statutory interpretation. Because the statute is criminal in nature, not even the ATF asked the district court to defer. Nevertheless, the weight of deference doctrines caused the district court to improperly sustain the validity of the challenged regulation. The court should have applied the rule of lenity, interpreted any ambiguity in the statute in favor of criminal defendants, and struck down the new regulation.

In addition to arguing that judges cannot defer to agencies’ interpretations of criminal statutes under Chevron, NCLA’s amicus brief points out that Chevron deference tramples judicial independence and violates the due process of law by requiring the judge to defer to the legal interpretation of one of the parties in the case. NCLA’s brief also shows that dozens of previous federal court decisions have held that this statute is not ambiguous, which deprives ATF of the ability to rewrite it.

“Whatever the merits of banning bump stocks, that decision lies with Congress—not the ATF, not the President, and not the courts. The courts’ duty is to say what the law is, not what the law should be. When courts defer to agencies using Chevron deference, they violate their duty as independent adjudicators, violate the due process of litigants, and subvert our constitutional system.” —Steve Simpson, NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel

“After treating bump stocks as legal for more than a decade, ATF now wants courts to pretend that bump stocks were always machineguns and that ATF was always wrong about the statute’s meaning. This about-face is right out of 1984. But even if the Ministry of Truth proclaims that ‘Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia,’ that does not make it so.” —Caleb Kruckenberg, NCLA Litigation Counsel

About NCLA NCLA is a nonprofit civil rights organization founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the administrative state. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unchecked power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights. For more information visit us online:

Judy Pino
New Civil Liberties Alliance

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