AUSTIN (KXAN) – Two years after a man killed 58 people in Las Vegas, the Trump administration banned bump stocks — a device the gunman used, which can enable a shooter to rapidly fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic weapons after an initial trigger pull. After several legal battles, Texans are now able to purchase them again. 

Following the massacre, the Department of Justice amended the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to change the definition of “machine gun” to include bump stocks. Federal law largely prohibits “machine guns,” though a person with a special permit may possess one.

“Boom, the [Trump] administration decided to go through the ATF rather than go through Congress and banned [bump stocks],” said Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works.

“So I decided to file a case against the federal government –  the Department of Justice and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – to get rid of the bump stock ban. Because my problem was that the ATF cannot create law – Congress creates law,” Cargill continued. 

And the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears civil and criminal cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi – largely agreed with Cargill. In a 13-3 decision in Jan 2023, the court said that “Cargill is correct” and that ATF lacked the authority to issue such a regulation. 

After the ban went into effect in 2019, those who possessed bump stocks, including the device’s largest manufacturer, were told to relinquish them to ATF or destroy them. Since all of the devices were destroyed, Cargill said that the manufacturer has had to start from square one, but after the 5th Circuit’s decision, people living in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi are able to purchase the device.

“He’s making bump stops. He’s delivering them to people. And he’s selling them to people that are in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi,” Cargill said. 

Cargill said that ATF had the opportunity to appeal the 5th Circuit Court’s ruling to The U.S. Supreme Court but that they missed their Feb. 27 deadline. Cargill said they have one more opportunity in early April.

“The ball’s in their court,” he said. “All the ATF has do is to appeal this case to the Supreme Court.” 

KXAN talked to a local attorney Douglas O’Connell about why the ATF would have chosen not to appeal the case.

“The government either bungled it and didn’t file a timely notice of appeal – which I doubt – or they decided they didn’t want to appeal,” O’Connell said. 

“And this is pure speculation, but they might have decided if we appeal and get a negative ruling against our decision, that applies nationwide. Whereas right now, this decision only applies in three states,” he said. 

Nicole Golden of Texas Gun Sense said she thinks the court’s decision to lift the ban is dangerous.

“This move shows a complete lack of regard and respect for victims and survivors of gun violence from that shooting, shootings around the nation and in Texas,” Golden said.

“We should be putting our full support — in a bipartisan way — behind common-sense measures to prevent gun violence. This is the complete opposite direction.”