Op-Ed: Ohio group asks SCOTUS to reel in bureaucratic control in brief over bump stocks
A free-market think tank based in Ohio is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent unelected bureaucrats from redefining laws and enforcing them in a way that is different from the intent of the U.S. Congress.
The Buckeye Institute made this request through an amicus brief filed with the court regarding a case over the bump stock ban put in place by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). An amicus brief is a letter to a court on behalf of an interested party that is not directly involved in the litigation.
After a person used a bump stock to kill 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017, many in the public called for a federal ban. President Donald Trump issued a memorandum that instructed ATF to ban the weapons by classifying them as machine guns, which the agency did.
The ATF is being sued by several firearms groups in Guedes v. ATF. The plaintiffs claim that the ATF arbitrarily changed the previous understanding of the law and that this violates the separation of powers because only Congress has the ability to write or amend legislation.
"Guedes v. ATF applies well beyond the Second Amendment, and – if this practice is not reversed – would allow unelected government bureaucrats to define and create new crimes without the approval of Congress and in violation of the Constitution," Robert Alt, the president of The Buckeye Institute, said in a news release. "Making something a crime is an awesome responsibility, and the Constitution is clear that doing so falls to our democratically-elected Congress, not unelected bureaucrats in agencies set up to enforce the laws.
"The Buckeye Institute calls on the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize that the rule of lenity – which requires courts to interpret vaguely worded criminal law in favor of defendants – must be the grounds on which this case is decided."
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