United States – -(AmmoLand.com)- While Second Amendment supporters celebrate the 6-3 ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, they may also have been given a huge win by none other than Chief Justice John Roberts in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.
The gist of the opinion Roberts wrote in West Virginia v. EPA is that government agencies like the EPA – or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – cannot exceed the powers granted by Congress. This opens up a whole new front in defending our Second Amendment rights in court.
Anti-Second Amendment extremists have long like to use administrative law to target our rights. For instance, in the Clinton administration, ATF cracked down on FFLs who had a low volume of sales – the so-called “kitchen table” dealers. As the NRA noted, that crackdown greatly reduced the number of FFLs. That can be dealt with by appropriate litigation now.
Congress hasn’t required FFLs to have a storefront, per 18 USC 923, so any criteria ATF uses outside what is in the laws passed by Congress could be open to a challenge in federal court. This could be a chance to really rein in this agency that many Second Amendment supporters would love to dissolve if they got the chance. It doesn’t just stop at FFLs.
Put it this way, the ban on “bump stocks” is now much more easy pickings in court, if only because it does raise questions as to whether they can be regulated administratively under 18 USC 921 and 26 USC 5845. This is just one hot button issue – there are others, like ATF records retention.
The ATF has been creative in trying to hold on to NICS information after the check says a dealer can proceed with the sale – a fight going on since NICS started in the late 1990s. Under the precedent established here, the clear Congressional prohibitions on maintaining those records – indeed, mandating “immediate destruction” – could be an avenue for litigation by pro-Second Amendment organizations.
Then there are administrative import bans of firearms. The list goes on and on, and is a target rich environment for litigation – provided that Second Amendment supporters have access to good attorneys who can see said litigation through.
Still, though, Second Amendment supporters will need to defeat anti-Second Amendment extremists via the ballot box at the federal, state, and local levels in order to ensure that ATF never does get that clear authority to go after our rights.
About Harold Hutchison
Writer Harold Hutchison has more than a dozen years of experience covering military affairs, international events, U.S. politics and Second Amendment issues. Harold was consulting senior editor at Soldier of Fortune magazine and is the author of the novel Strike Group Reagan. He has also written for the Daily Caller, National Review, Patriot Post, Strategypage.com, and other national websites.