Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, 18-cv-2988 (DLF)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtDABNEY L. FRIEDRICH, United States District Judge
Citation520 F.Supp.3d 51
Parties Damien GUEDES, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES, et al., Defendants. David Codrea, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Monty Wilkinson, Acting Attorney General, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 18-cv-2988 (DLF), No. 18-cv-3086 (DLF),18-cv-2988 (DLF)
Decision Date19 February 2021

520 F.Supp.3d 51

Damien GUEDES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES, et al., Defendants.


David Codrea, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Monty Wilkinson,1 Acting Attorney General, et al., Defendants.

No. 18-cv-2988 (DLF)
No. 18-cv-3086 (DLF)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed February 19, 2021


520 F.Supp.3d 57

Joshua G. Prince, Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., Bechtelsville, PA, Adam J. Kraut, Firearms Policy Coalition, Sacramento, CA, for Plaintiffs Damien Guedes, Firearms Policy Foundation, Madison Society Foundation, Inc., Shane Roden, Florida Carry, Inc.

Joshua G. Prince, Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., Bechtelsville, PA, Thomas C. Goldstein, Daniel H. Woofter, Pro Hac Vice, Goldstein & Russell P.C., Bethesda, MD, Adam J. Kraut, Firearms Policy Coalition, Sacramento, CA, for Plaintiff Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc.

Chetan A. Patil, Eric J. Soskin, Michael Fraser Knapp, Rebecca Marie Cutri-Kohart, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, Hashim M. Mooppan, Arlington, VA, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DABNEY L. FRIEDRICH, United States District Judge

520 F.Supp.3d 58

On October 1, 2017, a lone gunman opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. He used weapons equipped with bump stocks, which allow a semiautomatic gun to fire at a faster rate. Following this tragedy, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) promulgated a rule that classifies weapons equipped with bump stocks as machineguns under the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5801 – 5872, thus rendering them unlawful to possess. See Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. 66,514 (Dec. 26, 2018). The plaintiffs brought suit, in separate cases, to enjoin the rule. This Court held a hearing on their motion for a preliminary injunction and denied the injunction, see Guedes v. ATF , 356 F. Supp. 3d 109 (D.D.C. 2019) (" Guedes I "); the D.C. Circuit affirmed, see Guedes v. ATF , 920 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2019) (" Guedes II "). Now before the Court are the defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment, Dkt. 38 (Codrea ); Dkt. 61 (Guedes ), and the plaintiffs’ Cross Motions for Summary Judgment, Dkt. 44 (Codrea ), Dkt. 62 (Guedes ).2 For the same reasons articulated in the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion and by the D.C. Circuit, the Court will grant the defendants’ motions for summary judgment and deny the plaintiffs’ cross-motions.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court previously recounted in detail the facts and regulatory history underlying this lawsuit. See Guedes I , 356 F. Supp. 3d at 119–26. To summarize, the central legal question in this dispute is whether the National Firearm Act's definition of "machinegun" can encompass bump stock devices. A bump stock replaces a semiautomatic rifle's standard stock—the part of the rifle that rests against the shooter's shoulder—and enables the shooter to achieve a faster firing rate. To use a bump stock, the shooter must maintain forward pressure on the barrel and, at the same time, pull the trigger and maintain rearward pressure on the trigger. Once the shooter pulls the trigger, a bump stock harnesses and directs the firearm's recoil energy, thereby forcing the firearm to shift back and forth, each time "bumping" the shooter's stationary trigger finger. The shooter is thus able to reengage the trigger without additional pulls of the trigger.

The relevant statutes at issue are the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA). The NFA provides the following definition for the term "machinegun":

The term "machinegun" means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
520 F.Supp.3d 59

26 U.S.C. § 5845(b). The FOPA generally makes it "unlawful for any person to transfer or possess" a newly manufactured "machinegun," 18 U.S.C. § 922(o), and incorporates the NFA's definition of that term, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(23) ("The term ‘machinegun’ has the meaning given such term in ... the National Firearms Act."). The FOPA also amended a previous grant of rulemaking authority to provide that "[t]he Attorney General may prescribe only such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter." 18 U.S.C. § 926(a) ; see also Nat'l Rifle Ass'n v. Brady , 914 F.2d 475, 478 (4th Cir. 1990) (discussing the statutory change).

On March 29, 2018, ATF proposed the rule banning bump stocks and formally provided the public with 90 days, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 926(b), to submit written comments online, by mail, or by facsimile. Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. at 13442 (proposed Mar. 29, 2018). In the final rule published on December 26, 2018, ATF reversed its earlier position and concluded that a standard bump stock device is a "machinegun" as defined in the NFA. Id. at 66543, 66553. ATF interpreted the term "single function of the trigger" to mean a "single pull of the trigger." Id. at 66553. ATF also interpreted "automatically" to mean "as the result of a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows the firing of multiple rounds through a single pull of the trigger." Id. Based on these definitions, ATF added a sentence to the regulatory definition of "machinegun" to make clear that the term "machinegun" in the NFA includes "bump-stock-type device[s]," which "allow[ ] a semi-automatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semi-automatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter." Id. at 66553–54. Under the rule, "current possessors" of bump stocks must either destroy them or abandon them at an ATF office. Id. at 66530.

The Guedes plaintiffs filed their complaint and moved for a preliminary injunction on December 18, 2018. See No. 18-cv-2988, Dkt. 1, 2. The Codrea plaintiffs filed their complaint on December 27, 2018, see No. 18-cv-3086, Dkt. 1, and likewise moved for a preliminary injunction on January 18, 2019. See Dkt. 5 (Codrea ). Following hearings on February 6, 2019 (Guedes ) and February 19, 2019 (Codrea ), the Court denied the motions for a preliminary injunction because the plaintiffs lacked a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their legal theories. See Guedes I , 356 F. Supp. 3d 109 (D.D.C. 2019). The D.C. Circuit affirmed. See Guedes II , 920 F.3d 1. In relevant part, the D.C. Circuit held that the bump stock rule was a legislative rule, that Chevron deference was proper, and that ATF reasonably interpreted the ambiguous statute. See generally id. The plaintiffs then petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of certiorari, which the Court denied. See Guedes v. ATF , ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 789, 206 L.Ed.2d 266 (2020).3 The cross-motions for summary judgment in the two cases are now ripe for review.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A court grants summary judgment if the moving party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ; see

520 F.Supp.3d 60

also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247–48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A "material" fact is one with potential to change the substantive outcome of the litigation. See id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; Holcomb v. Powell , 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A dispute is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could determine that the evidence warrants a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; Holcomb , 433 F.3d at 895.

In an Administrative Procedure Act case, summary judgment "serves as the mechanism for deciding, as a matter of law, whether the agency action is supported by the administrative record and otherwise consistent with the APA standard of review." Sierra Club v. Mainella , 459 F. Supp. 2d 76, 90 (D.D.C. 2006). The Court will "hold unlawful and set aside" agency action that is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law," 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), "in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right," id. § 706(2)(C), or "unsupported by substantial evidence," id. § 706(2)(E).

In an arbitrary and capricious challenge, the core question is whether the agency's decision was "the product of reasoned decisionmaking." Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , 463 U.S. 29, 52, 103 S.Ct. 2856, 77 L.Ed.2d 443 (1983) ; see also Nat'l Telephone Coop. Ass'n v. FCC , 563 F.3d 536, 540 (D.C. Cir. 2009) ("The APA's arbitrary-and-capricious standard requires that...

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2 practice notes
  • Campaign Legal Ctr. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, Case No. 20-cv-00730
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 19, 2021
    ...Here, plaintiffs challenge FEC inaction on their administrative complaints rather than FEC dismissal of their administrative complaints. 520 F.Supp.3d 51 But as plaintiffs concede elsewhere, courts treat challenges to FEC inaction and dismissal the same in the Article III context. See Resp.......
  • Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, 21-5045
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • August 9, 2022
    ...grant of the government's motion for summary judgment and denial of Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment. Guedes v. ATF, 520 F.Supp.3d 51, 58 (D.D.C. 2021) ("Guedes III"). For the same reasons discussed in Guedes I and II, the District Court found the Bureau reasonably construed th......
2 cases
  • Campaign Legal Ctr. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, Case No. 20-cv-00730
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 19, 2021
    ...Here, plaintiffs challenge FEC inaction on their administrative complaints rather than FEC dismissal of their administrative complaints. 520 F.Supp.3d 51 But as plaintiffs concede elsewhere, courts treat challenges to FEC inaction and dismissal the same in the Article III context. See Resp.......
  • Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, 21-5045
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • August 9, 2022
    ...grant of the government's motion for summary judgment and denial of Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment. Guedes v. ATF, 520 F.Supp.3d 51, 58 (D.D.C. 2021) ("Guedes III"). For the same reasons discussed in Guedes I and II, the District Court found the Bureau reasonably construed th......

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