Federal Court says ATF Overstepped Authority with “Final Rule”

ATF Agents IMG ATFHQ-IG Public Domain
ATF Agents IMG ATFHQ-IG Public Domain

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)-– On September 2, 2022, the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, issued an Opinion and Order granting a preliminary injunction, in part, on the ATF “Final Rule” which radically changed the decades-long definition of what is a firearm in federal law.  The opinion explains that ATF created the longstanding definition of what a firearm is in 1978. Now, over forty years later, they are updating and expanding the definition into new areas.  From the opinion/order, p. 2-4:

In April 2022, ATF published a Final Rule changing, among other things,the 1978 definition of “frame or receiver.”See Definition of “Frame or Receiver” and Identification of Firearms, 87 Fed. Reg. 24,652 (Apr. 26, 2022)(codified at 27 C.F.R. pts.447, 478, and 479(2022)).1ATF split the phrase intotwo parts, assigning the term “frame” to handguns and the term “receiver” to any firearm other than a handgun, such as rifles and shotguns. See 27 C.F.R. §478.12(a)(1), (a)(2). ATF then defined the terms “frame” and “receiver” along the same lines as the 1978 rule, though with updated, more precise technical terminology.2 But ATF did not stop there. 

Rather than merely updating the terminology,ATF decided to regulate partial frames and receivers. Under the new Final Rule, “[t]he terms ‘frame’and ‘receiver’shall include a partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver, including a frame or receiver parts kit, that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to function as a frame or receiver. ”Id.§478.12(c). But “[t]he terms shall not include a forging, casting, printing, extrusion, unmachined body, or similar article that has not yet reached a stage of manufacture where it is clearly identifiable as an unfinished component part of a weapon (e.g., unformed block of metal, liquid polymer, or other raw material).” Id. When determining whether an object is a frame or receiver, the ATF Director is not limited to looking only at the object. “When issuing a classification, the Director may consider any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials that are sold, distributed, or possessed with the item or kit ….” Id. 

The Final Rule also amends ATF’s definition of “firearm”to include weapon parts kits.The ATF’s new definition of “firearm,”“shall include a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”Id.§478.11(definition of “firearm”).

The Court found ATF exceeded its authority. From the opinion/order, p. 6:

1. The Final Rule exceeds ATF’s statutory authority under the plain language of the Gun Control Act. 

The Administrative Procedure Act requires courts to “hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be … in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations.”5 U.S.C. §706(2)(C). Plaintiffs argue the Final Rule exceeds ATF’s statutory authority under the Gun Control Act in two ways. First, Plaintiffs argue that the Final Rule expands ATF’s authority over parts that may be “readily converted” into frames or receivers, when Congress limited ATF’s authority to “frames or receivers” as such.Second, Plaintiffs argue that the Final Rule unlawfully treats weapon parts kits as firearms.Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on both claims.

On September 23, 2022, Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, doing business as 80 Percent Arms, filed a motion to intervene (to be included in the lawsuit). The motion is under consideration. The court has ordered the ATF to reply by October 7, 2022.

On September 26, 2022, the court denied the government’s motion for clarification, where the ATF wanted to complete a classification of one of the plaintiff’s products. The Court ruled to do so would be in contravention of the injunction it placed in effect on September 2, 2022.

Texas is in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Another Court in Texas refused to issue a preliminary injunction.

In North Dakota, in the  8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Peter D. Welte refused to grant a preliminary injunction in another case challenging the ATF “Final Rule”.

A major contention is the wording of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which clearly differentiates weapons that “may be readily converted” and receivers, which does not include the “may be readily converted” language.

In addition, the inclusion of information, tooling, and jigs as part of what is defined as a firearm is new and a considerable expansion of governmental power.

In Delaware, Judge Maryellen Noreika has ruled the ability to make and possess homemade guns is protected by the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court may eventually take a case on what power, if any, the ATF may legitimately have to regulate the private, non-commercial making of or sale of firearms, and what may be defined as a “firearm”.  The court action may take years.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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DDS

I found this quite by accident:

“By October 13, 2011, agencies must:

Use plain language in any document that:

  • is necessary for obtaining any federal government benefit or service or filing taxes
  • provides information about a federal government benefit or service, or
  • explains to the public how to comply with a requirement that the federal government administers or enforces

Write annual compliance reports and post these reports on its plain language web page.”

https://www.plainlanguage.gov/law/

If the BATFE had made any effort to comply with FedGov’s “Plain Language” law, no weaselly worded “clarification” would be needed.

Last edited 1 month ago by DDS
rancott

Thank you for this information, we really need to stop bureaucracies from making laws. That’s the job of congress. We are looking more like 1933 Germany more every day.

Bill

It sure would be nice if congress would actually do its job – make laws and do more than just hold hearings and recess to campaign and solicit
re-election contributions!

Roland T. Gunner

But I take issue with the idea that Congress’ job, or that they see their own purpose, to be the creation of more laws. I mean, seriously, how many things are there out there that are legal today, but really need to be made illegal tomorrow?

uncle dudley

What a scary thought, we have a supreme court justice who will most likely hear this case in the future, who can’t define what a woman is, yet she will be asked to define a firearm.

PMinFl

She just didn’t want to be nailed down, after all gender is fluid…isn’t it? /s

Last edited 1 month ago by PMinFl
Roland T. Gunner

Stupid slot.

Montana454Casull

FJB and the corrupt ATF . The courts see through thier anti American unconstitutional bullshit these clowns are trying to ram down our throats . Thank you for standing by our constitutional rights and putting these scumbags on notice that thier crap won’t be accepted in a free and constitutional republic . Get your 80% and manufacture a firearm that will make these clowns come unhinged . LOL

Tank

Ya think ?
Change the games laws/rules after ingenuity beats them.
They’re INTENT only becomes more crystallized & clearer every time new unconstitutional laws/edicts/E.O.’s are levied on the people.
Ya think ?
Change the games laws/rules after ingenuity beats them.

They’re INTENT only becomes more crystallized & clearer every time new unconstitutional rules/laws/edicts/decrees/E.O.’s are punitively levied on the people.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tank
Roland T. Gunner

We need to kick AFT in the nuts; and keep kicking them while they are down. This shit has to stop. The next Ruby Ridge or Waco could go the other way.

Roland T. Gunner

And Im on pins and needles hoping the new pistol brace ban can be shitcanned the same way. I have at least 15 braced pistols I dont want to comply with.

Tionico

and I ,for one, would not shed one tear…..

CourageousLion

It would be so much easier if the plain language of the 2nd amendment were adhered too. You know those pesky SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED words? I know it’s hard for tyrants to understand them, but they better start learning the simple meanings for their own safety.

2nd Amendment.png
gregs

Ha, Ha. So sad, too bad.