Federal Judge Knocks Down ATF Frame or Receiver RuleThe Firearm Blog

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VACATED: Federal Judge Knocks Down ATF Frame or Receiver Rule

A federal judge has vacated the ATF Final Rule that changed the definition of what constitutes a firearm under federal law in the United States. I am going to leave the full legal analysis to someone more qualified such as our own Daniel Y., but the big takeaway here is that the U.S. Congress passes laws that agencies are entrusted to enforce, not to redefine as they deem appropriate. Please see the press release from the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) at the end of this article.

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VACATED: Federal Judge Knocks Down ATF Frame or Receiver Rule

Excerpts below. The full decision can be found here.

This case presents the question of whether the federal government may lawfully regulate partially manufactured firearm components, related firearm products, and other tools and materials in keeping with the Gun Control Act of 1968. Because the Court concludes that the government cannot regulate those items without violating federal law, the Court holds that the government’s recently enacted Final Rule, Definition of “Frame or Receiver” and Identification of Firearms, 87 Fed. Reg. 24,652 (codified at 27 C.F.R. pts. 447, 478, and 479), is unlawful agency action taken in excess of the ATF’s statutory jurisdiction. On this basis, the Court vacates the Final Rule.

 

In April 2022, ATF published the 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)). 2 ATF split the phrase into two 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.

 

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).”

 

Parts that may become receivers are not receivers.

Congress carefully defined its terms in the Gun Control Act. The primary definition of “firearm” in the GCA contains three parts: “any weapon (including a starter gun) which [1] will or [2] is designed to or [3] may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.” 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(A). Under this primary definition, a firearm is first and foremost a weapon. Underscoring that point, Congress explicitly named starter guns in the definition because starter guns are not obviously weapons. Then, because weapon parts also are not “weapons,” Congress created a secondary definition covering specific weapon parts: “the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” Id. § 921(a)(3)(B). 61 Notably, Congress did not cover all weapon parts—only frames and receivers. And only the frames and receivers “of any such weapon” that Congress described in its primary definition.

 

A weapon parts kit is not a firearm.

The Gun Control Act defines a “firearm” as “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.” 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3). The Final Rule amends that definition, adding that the term “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.” 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 (definition of “firearm”). But that language conflicts with the statute’s definition of “firearm.”

 

CONCLUSION

In sum, the Court GRANTS Original Plaintiffs’ unopposed Motion for Leave to Provide Supplemental Authority, and the Court DENIES JSD Supply’s proposed Motion for Injunction as prematurely filed. The Court GRANTS Intervenor-Plaintiffs JSD Supply’s and Polymer80’s Motions to Intervene. Further, for the reasons discussed, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ and Intervenor-Plaintiffs’ Motions for Summary Judgment, DENIES Defendants’ Cross-Motion, and VACATES the Final Rule. Separate final judgment shall issue as to the appropriate parties and claims. As discussed, Polymer80 may move for summary judgment on its unique claims to the extent those remaining claims are not mooted by this decision.

SO ORDERED this 30th day of June, 2023.

FPC Press Release

FPC and FPCAF WIN: Federal Judge Vacates ATF’s Unlawful “Frame or Receiver” Rule

FORT WORTH, TX (June 30, 2023) – Today, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and FPC Action Foundation (FPCAF) announced that a federal judge has granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs in VanDerStok v. Garland, vacating the ATF’s “frame or receiver” rule and preventing the federal government from enforcing it. The opinion can be viewed at FPCLegal.org.

“This case presents the question of whether the federal government may lawfully regulate partially manufactured firearm components, related firearm products, and other tools and materials in keeping with the Gun Control Act of 1968,” wrote Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in his Order. “Because the Court concludes that the government cannot regulate those items without violating federal law, the Court holds that the government’s recently enacted Final Rule… is unlawful agency action taken in excess of the ATF’s statutory jurisdiction. On this basis, the Court vacates the Final Rule.”

“We’re thrilled to see the Court agree that ATF’s Frame or Receiver Rule exceeds the agency’s congressionally limited authority,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, FPCAF’s Senior Attorney for Constitutional Litigation and FPC’s counsel in this case. “With this decision, the Court has properly struck down ATF’s Rule and ensured that it cannot enforce that which it never had the authority to publish in the first place.”

“This is a monumental victory against the tyrannical ATF. Firearms Policy Coalition and FPC Law have argued that this rogue agency has unlawfully attacked gun owners in this latest round of ‘rulemaking’ and we are grateful to see the Court agree,” said Richard Thomson, FPC’s Vice President of Communications. “We will not stop, however, with this latest victory. FPC and FPC Law will continue to bring these cases to put a stop to the immoral and unconstitutional actions of the disarmament regime.”

Plaintiffs in this case are two individuals, Tactical Machining, LLC, and FPC. FPCAF represents the Plaintiffs, alongside Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Individuals who would like to join the FPC Grassroots Army and support important pro-rights lawsuits and programs like these can sign up at JoinFPC.org. Individuals and organizations wanting to support charitable efforts in support of the restoration of Second Amendment and other natural rights can also make a tax-deductible donation to the FPC Action Foundation. For more on FPC’s lawsuits and other pro-Second Amendment initiatives, visit FPCLegal.org and follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org), a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, exists to create a world of maximal human liberty, defend constitutional rights, advance individual liberty, and restore freedom. FPC’s efforts are focused on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and adjacent issues including freedom of speech, due process, unlawful searches and seizures, separation of powers, asset forfeitures, privacy, encryption, and limited government. The FPC team are next-generation advocates working to achieve the Organization’s strategic objectives through litigation, research, scholarly publications, amicus briefing, legislative and regulatory action, grassroots activism, education, outreach, and other programs.

FPC Law (FPCLaw.org) is the nation’s first and largest public interest legal team focused on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the leader in the Second Amendment litigation and research space.

FPC Action Foundation (FPCActionFoundation.org), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, exists to create a world of maximal human liberty through charitable legal action, public policy, education, and research programs.

Source link: https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2023/06/30/atf-frame-or-receiver-rule/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss by Pete at www.thefirearmblog.com