SCOTUS EPA Ruling Could Doom Recent ATF Rules

By Larry Keane

ATF Police Raid IMG 2nd instagram.com/atfhq/
ATF Police Raid IMG 2nd instagram.com/atfhq/

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting the authority for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to write its own rules without clear congressional authorization that Congress intended to delegate to the EPA could also upend rules published or pending from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

The Supreme Court struck down the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the Supreme Court’s final rulings for the 2022 term. The decision wasn’t one of whether the EPA’s rule made good sense or was even achievable. The Supreme Court found that the EPA, as an administrative agency, doesn’t have the legal authority to make their own rules. That’s the responsibility of Congress – the duly elected representatives of the people. It is a matter of the separation of powers principle and legislative intent.

Major Questions

The question at stake, according to the majority decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, was the “major questions doctrine.” Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, found that the EPA couldn’t point to “‘clear congressional authorization’ for the authority it claims.” The EPA, in writing the rules for the Clean Power Plan rule under the Clean Air Act, “claimed to discover an unheralded power representing a transformative expansion of its regulatory authority in the vague language of a long-extant, but rarely used, statute designed as a gap filler. That discovery allowed it to adopt a regulatory program that Congress had conspicuously declined to enact itself.”

The 6-3 Supreme Court ruling told the EPA it can’t make its own rules under the major questions doctrine. “Agencies have only those powers given to them by Congress, and ‘enabling legislation’ is generally not an ‘open book to which the agency [may] add pages and change the plot line,’” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “The agency instead must point to ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the power it claims.”

He later added, “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”

Congress Alone

Justices Gorsuch and Alito carefully explained that Congress – and Congress alone – has the authority to pass laws representing the will of the people. Lawmaking that is delegated to unaccountable bureaucracies belies the intent of ensuring rule by executive fiat and prevents whipsaw rule-making that gets overturned by each presidential administration.

“Admittedly, lawmaking under our Constitution can be difficult. But that is nothing particular to our time nor any accident,” wrote Justices Gorsuch and Alito in their concurring opinion. “The framers believed that the power to make new laws regulating private conduct was a grave one that could, if not properly checked, pose a serious threat to individual liberty.”

“In a world like that, agencies could churn out new laws more or less at whim. Intrusions on liberty would not be difficult and rare, but easy and profuse,” they added. “Stability would be lost, with vast numbers of laws changing with every new presidential administration. Rather than embody a wide social consensus and input from minority voices, laws would more often bear the support only of the party currently in power. Powerful special interests, which are sometimes ‘uniquely’ able to influence the agendas of administrative agencies, would flourish while others would be left to ever-shifting winds. Finally, little would remain to stop agencies from moving into areas where state authority has traditionally predominated.”

In other words, it creeps toward a tyrannical administrative state.

“When Congress seems slow to solve problems, it may be only natural that those in the Executive Branch might seek to take matters into their own hands,” Justices Gorsuch and Alito added. “But the Constitution does not authorize agencies to use pen-and-phone regulations as substitutes for laws passed by the people’s representatives. In our Republic, ‘[i]t is the peculiar province of the legislature to prescribe general rules for the government of society.’”

Unilaterally Redefining

The decision to limit the EPA’s authority to promulgate rules over “cap-and-trade” schemes doesn’t seem like a direct translation to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and ATF until it’s looked at through the lens of executive agencies claiming legislative authority where it does not exist. The DOJ and ATF claimed authority to rewrite the rules defining what a frame and receiver is and define AR-pistols as short-barreled rifles under the 1968 Gun Control Act and the 1934 National Firearms Act. In both laws, however, the authority for ATF to do so doesn’t exist. In fact, defining firearms is explicitly the authority of Congress.

Congress set the definition of what constitutes a firearm in the 1968 Gun Control Act. In the case of reclassifying AR-pistols as short-barreled rifles, these definitions were created by Congress. Congress alone has the authority to rewrite them. Neither of the laws includes provisions allowing agencies, including the ATF or the Attorney General, to rewrite definitions of what constitutes a firearm on their own.

The DOJ, through the ATF, appears to be overstepping its congressional authority to redefine frames and receivers differently from how Congress defined the terms in statute. Similarly, the agencies are attempting to redefine what is classified as short-barreled rifles and subject them to the NFA regulations, including taxes, photo and fingerprint submission, and onerous background checks. The role of the ATF and DOJ is to enforce the 1934 NFA and 1968 Gun Control Act. DOJ and ATF have the congressionally delegated authority to faithfully implement those laws through rulemaking. But that delegated authority doesn’t authorize them to change the law on their own to match advancements in technology or their view of good public policy.

The major question with the DOJ’s proposed rules is where do they derive Congressional authority to assert this power? The rules, in light of the W.V. v. EPA ruling, appear to be out of bounds. The Supreme Court’s decision is a welcome – and necessary – check on the growth of the undemocratic “administrative state.”


About The National Shooting Sports Foundation

NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations, and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org

National Shooting Sports Foundation

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DIYinSTL

The SBR is an anachronism and its definition in law should be eliminated. Many modern handguns are more powerful than common rifle rounds and modern sighting systems (red dots, lasers) are at least as accurate as a SBR with iron sights.

[W3]

This from “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand ca;1957: ” “Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of Boy Scouts you’re up against – – then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well,… Read more »

Bill

It is totally wrong when unelected bureaucrats make law by redefining terms.
Per the Constitution, congress makes the laws; but over the many years the members of congress have abrogated their responsibilities and ignored it when bureaucrats created new laws!

Boz

FIush the atf.

nrringlee

The Administrative State is the dream of the Progressive Movement. It has come in to full fruition and now revels in its power over our once great republic. The Progressives have finally reversed the mistake they see in our founding: the idea that proletarians can self govern. By replacing all of that nasty democratically elected mess with a bureaucracy impervious to public will and pressure they can simply create law out of the ethers and then use that same law to crush any opposition. Witness the January 6 Stalinist Show Trials currently underway. If you have ever had to work… Read more »

Patriot Solutions

Plain English text is still plain English text in America and 2A is clearly written, without a single limitation on We The People as those bitches at ATF are going to learn.

Arizona

BATFE has zero authority to alter laws, write new laws, or change statutory definitions set by Congress, as I informed them in my comments on their unconstitutional rules. Now the court will smack their wieners and tell them to stay in their lane. Until we abolish them.

swmft

hoping some of them go to jail

swmft

title 18 242

Laddyboy

AGREED!

nrringlee

The response you will get from any career GS-5 working in any federal bureaucracy is: pfffffffffffttttt.

Green Mtn. Boy

It is what it is, only congress writes law not some agency that it’s self is not Constitutionally authorized.

swmft

and a lot of them need to go to jail

Ope

That would be great if they did get locked up. But I think you and I both know that will never happen.

swmft

it may come to a lot of them shot, violating law (constitution is stated as supreme law of the land) as stated by scotus court has no army but us and enforcing a ruling against government may come down to us

Laddyboy

Agreed!

gregs

this is why the lefties want to pack the supreme court, so they can get activists judges on the bench to make legislation, kind of like roe v wade, and we see how that turned out, finally.
this is why our very intelligent founding fathers wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights the way they did. they knew there would soon be tyrants that would attempt to circumvent the procedures and make themselves king/queen(s).

john

The ATF needs to be disbanded unfortunately while the democrats remain in control they will use this agency to continue to disarm the american public. Today the jobs report the media and the democrats say better than they thought that was retracted the last two times after the report was posted. The economy is better than ever so say the democrats and the Biden administration. The also claim they understand the frustration of the working class who are struggling to feed their families and fuel their cars. The white house claimed higher earnings for the unemployed does anyone believe the… Read more »

Bill

The republicans had the chance to do so and sat on their collective hands!
The republican establishment is democrat Lite!

USMC0351Grunt

EXACTLY! And WE, The People sat on OUR collective and apathetic asses and failed to DEMAND the house and senate do their JOBS!

[W3]

Secession is looking better and better every day. We just need to find a way to do it peaceably – – as was originally intended back in 1861 – – without being goaded into firing the first shot.
[W3]

Bill

TEXIT!

john

The EPA has been responsible for more hardships for cattle ranchers farmers and those who make a living feeding America.

Democrats continue to seek total control over we the people. The elite have made a deal with the devil in today’s world that is the Chinese Communist Party.

The democrats are positioning themselves to be above the law as a one party government over our freedoms. This is why the democratic socialist party is now taken over the old guard transitioning the party to the far left.

Democratic Credo
DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO

musicman44mag

I love feel good articles and this one made my heart smile. Love it. Now for the enforcement to make them comply. When will that happen?

Arizona

Enforcement? When we the people make it so. The corrupt gov will continue to abuse the law and their power so long as we allow it. And will only give citizens the respect we demand.

musicman44mag

You are so right. They don’t respect us and think that they are here to rule us not for We the People to control.

swmft

we get a ruling that they cant make law , we form a possie and jail them all

Roland T. Gunner

Who are the couple of cowardly sh!# weasels with the constant downvotes? You crackers are on the wrong side of history.

Oldman

Probably when Hell freezes over. I am waiting for them to have to recall their ruling that a bumpstock is a machine gun. AND any trigger device that will allow a firearm to shoot faster. It still takes a trigger pull!

musicman44mag

I want the FRT rule repealed. Wish I would have known about those before they got on the ATF radar.

Today I got an email from Oregon Firearms Federation. Seems like there is going to be a bill on the ballot about having to take a training class to get your permission slip to buy a gun. I thought the Superior Court just covered this.

https://www.oregonfirearms.org/racist-ballot-measure-moves-forward

OreGONEISTAN druggie capital of the U.S.A.

F Kate Brown and all the marxists in potland.

USMC0351Grunt

Perhaps they want to assure that you can take fentanyl and still hit your target?

[W3]

I’m surprised that ATF hasn’t declared our forefingers to be machine guns. My old DPD academy fellow rookie could – – back in 1971 and even up until today – – squeeze 6 rounds of .38 specials out of a S&W model 10 faster than a M3/M3A1 is capable of cranking out .45 ACPs.
[W3]