March 25, 2014
By Robert W. Hunnicutt
It used to be that a lot of us weren't too happy with the federal judiciary, but federal judges have come in real handy lately with a series of decisions that have confirmed and restored firearms rights. Occasionally, these have come with the added bonus of humor.
Innovator Enterprises had sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which had ruled a compensator of its design was a silencer. BATFE based that ruling not on measurements of the device's sound output, but because of characteristics the agency said it shared with silencers in general. Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia wasn't buying that for a minute, and after minutely dissecting the ATF position, chose to deliver the news in a form even the most obtuse bureaucrat should understand:
"A mouse is not an "elephant" solely because it has three characteristics that are common to known elephants: a tail, gray skin, and four legs.
A child's bike is not a "motorcycle" solely because it has three characteristics common to known motorcycles: two rubber tires, handlebars, and a leather seat.
And a Bud Light is not "Single-Malt Scotch," just because it is frequently served in a glass container, contains alcohol, and is available for purchase at a tavern.
To close with a firearm-related example: a hockey puck is not a "rubber bullet," just because it has rounded sides, is made of vulcanized rubber, and is capable of causing injury when launched at high speeds. Learning that one object has three characteristics in common with some category may not be very helpful in determining whether the object in question belongs in that category."
That should be intelligible to anyone with a pulse. If only we could get the Dianne Feinsteins of the world to grasp the parallel insight that a pistol grip, a flash hider and a detachable magazine don't turn any collection of parts into an "assault rifle." Nah. Not going to happen, but a hat tip to Judge Bates, anyway.