Divided Sixth Circuit Panel Rejects Chevron Deference for Interpretation of Criminal Statute
Today a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued its long-awaited opinion in Gun Owners of America v. Garland, a challenge to the Trump Administration’s “bump stock” ban. How long as this decision been awaited? Oral argument was in December 2019. Judge Batchelder wrote the opinion for the court, joined by Judge Murphy. Judge White dissented.
Judge Batchelder’s opinion invalidates the ban on the grounds that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm’s interpretation was not eligible for Chevron deference because the law being interpreted was a criminal statute. Here is how she summarizes the ruling in her introduction:
The question before us is whether a bump stock may be properly classified as a machine gun as defined by 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b). But this case rests as much on who determines the statute’s meaning as it does on what the statute means.
On December 26, 2018, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF” or “Agency”) promulgated a rule that classified bump stocks as machine guns, reversing its previous position. See Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. 66,514 (Dec
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