Bump Stock Owners Seek Restitution from Feds
After recently destroying 73,462 bump stocks worth a combined value of more than $20 million, a Texas firearms dealer wants the federal government to pay for the loss. RW Arms of Fort Worth complied with a new federal law requiring it and all owners and sellers of bump stocks to either destroy them or turn them in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), but they are asking the government to cover their losses.
Owners of RW Arms joined a federal lawsuit filed March 28 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking payment for the value of the bump stocks destroyed. They joined plaintiffs The Modern Sportsman, Mark Maxwell and Michael Stewart in filing the legal challenge based on the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which requires compensation when private property is taken for public purposes.
President Donald Trump’s administration in December issued a new federal rule banning bump stocks. Then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker ordered owners of bump stocks to destroy them or turn them into the ATF.
Mass murderer Stephan Paddock used bump stocks to mimic automatic fire from his semi-auto rifles and murdered 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, prior to taking his own life. Paddock also wounded hundreds of concert-goers after spraying them with continued fire from an elevated position on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino. The bump stocks Paddock used instantly became a focal point of controversy due to their ability to greatly increase the rate of fire.
Bump stocks initially were developed to enable handicapped individuals to exercise their Second Amendment rights at the shooting range. With the bump stocks in place, users need only depress the trigger once and hold it. As each round goes off, the bump stock and already-pulled trigger cause the next round to go off as it cycles through, which mimics automatic fire. The stocks enable many otherwise incapable of operating a rifle to protect themselves by firing multiple rounds.
President Barack Obama’s administration in 2010 declared bump stocks to be a “firearm part” and, therefore, not subject to federal firearms regulation. The ATF concurred two years later, and the matter remained settled until after the horrific events of Oct. 1, 2017.
When President Trump announced the ban, it raised a great deal of controversy among gun owners and sellers, who are fairly divided on the issue. Many gun dealers who support the ban say rifles were not designed to operate with the foreign attachments. Using rifles in ways they were not designed is a bad idea, and bump stocks cause violent shaking that might damage rifles and render then unsafe, some argue.
Others, though, view the bump stocks as legal attachments, as well as private property, and federal intervention amounts to a violation of Second Amendment rights.
The order to destroy or turn in bump stocks without restitution, likewise, violates the Fifth Amendment, opponents of the ban say. The National Rifle Association did not indicate support for the ban, but it also did not issue any opinions against it.
The ban on bump stocks, although called for by the President, actually comes via the ATF, which now defines bump stocks as “machine guns” and regulates them as such. Yet, legal opponents say the ATF action is illegal and unenforceable. They say Congress is the only lawful authority that can determine when legal activities have become illegal through the passage of laws.
Pro-Second Amendment group Gun Owners of America and others have filed legal challenges arguing the bump stock ban violates the Constitution, but a federal judge in February denied requests for a legal injunction stopping the ban from taking effect.
With the ban now in effect and bump stocks turned over or destroyed, the new legal tactic of seeking damages via the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment might gain traction. The plaintiffs destroyed or turned over more than 75,000 bump stocks, which represent a great deal of asset and cash loss for businesses and private owners.
What are your thoughts on this lawsuit? Should the government compensate businesses and bump stock owners for having to turn them in or destroy their inventory?