Federal judge denies a Utah gun enthusiast’s attempt to halt the ban on bump stocks

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, demonstrates how a little-known device called a "bump stock" works when attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in South Jordan, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A federal judge has denied a Utah gun rights advocate's attempt to block the recently imposed ban on bump stocks.

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, argued in court papers that the ban on the shooting accessory — which alters semi-automatic rifles to fire in quick bursts like a machine gun — is unconstitutional.

He had asked U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish to grant an injunction and press pause on the bump stock ban until his lawsuit is resolved. Aposhian’s attorneys wrote in court papers that he has been instructed to destroy his bump stock — or give it to federal firearm officials — by next Tuesday.

But Parrish on Friday denied Aposhian’s request, finding that Aposhian did not show “a substantial likelihood of success” on the merits of his lawsuit. He filed a notice of appeal to the 10th Circuit Court on Monday.

Parrish acknowledged in her ruling that Aposhian will suffer harm by being forced to destroy or give up a bump stock that will be impossible to replace. But she wrote that it’s unlikely that Aposhian will succeed in challenging the validity of the ban.

Parrish’s ruling does not outright dismiss Aposhian’s lawsuit, but it means the gun enthusiast and others like him who own bump stocks will have to give up the shooting accessory before the March 26 deadline — unless Aposhian succeeds in his appeal to the 10th Circuit.

Aposhian argued in the lawsuit that the executive branch cannot rewrite laws “as it sees fit.” But he contends that’s exactly what the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) — named as defendants in the lawsuit — did to establish the new regulation.

“At its most basic, this is about constitutional order and about who has lawmaking power,” said Caleb Kruckenberg, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit civil rights organization that is representing Aposhian in his case. “The Constitution was very deliberate. It said that Congress makes the laws through a bicameral process and then presents it to the president for signature. And that’s how we make laws and how we bind citizens to their obligations. And this turns that whole process upside down.”

President Donald Trump promised in March 2018 that he would ban bump stocks because they “turn legal weapons into illegal machines.” To do so, his administration reclassified the accessories in December as machine guns; federal law heavily restricts buying, selling or owning those weapons.

Congress has not prohibited the possession of bump stocks by statute, though it has considered at least five different bills in recent years that would have regulated the devices, the lawsuit states.

The ban reverses an ATF decision made in 2010 and a second one under then-President Barack Obama that found bump stocks were not the same as machine guns and couldn’t be regulated the same way.

The new interpretation followed intense scrutiny on bump stocks after they were used in an October 2017 shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas — the worst mass shooting in modern American history, which left 58 dead and almost 100 injured.