Sixth Circuit Panel Rules Bump Stock Ban ‘Ambiguous,’ Reverses Lower Court Ruling That Upheld the Ban

bump stock ban in force
Allen Breed/AP

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Tuesday the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) bump stock ban is “ambiguous” and reversed a lower court’s ruling that upheld the ban.

The case was brought by a Kentucky man, Scott Hardin, who owned numerous bump stocks when the ATF labeled them as “machine guns” then enforced a ban on March 26, 2019.

Hardin sued and lost in District Court, then appealed to the Sixth Circuit where a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the language of the bump stock ban was makes the use of the phrase machine gun “ambiguous.”

The majority opinion was written Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Gilman wrote:

Hardin argues that the statutory definition of a machinegun unambiguously excludes bump stocks, whereas the ATF argues that the best reading of the statute compels the opposite conclusion. Without repeating the intricacies of those positions here, there can be no doubt that a significant number of reasonable jurists have reached diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether the definition of a machinegun includes a bump stock.

Gilman noted the “rule of lenity,” as the United States Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit did in January 2023,when ruling against the bump stock ban in Cargill v. Garland. The “rule of lenity” stands as a protector against with imposing criminal liability on people who had legally purchased a product against which there was no law.

In conclusion, the Sixth Circuit’s three-judge panel reversed the District Court decision and remanded the case for “further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The case is Hardin v. ATF, No. 20-6380 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio and a Turning Point USA Ambassador. AWR Hawkins holds a Ph.D. in Military History, with a focus on the Vietnam War (brown water navy), U.S. Navy since Inception, the Civil War, and Early Modern Europe. Follow him on Instagram: @awr_hawkins. You can sign up to get Down Range at Reach him directly at



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