Thursday, July 27, 2023

Mountain States Legal Foundation Celebrates Legal Triumph Over Biden Administration's "Ghost Gun" Regulation

Jahi Chikwendiu | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The ruling in the case of VanDerStok versus Garland was issued earlier this month, and it was a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. This essentially overturned the Biden Administration's controversial "ghost gun" regulation, which had redefined certain gun parts as firearms. The Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), an organization dedicated to safeguarding Constitutional rights and focusing on Second Amendment, natural resources, energy, and equal protection litigation, was especially satisfied with this decision.

MSLF, a non-profit legal firm operating out of Denver, represented the plaintiffs in their legal battle against the federal government. This triumph was significant not only for the organization's clients, but also for the law's integrity. Brian Abbas, who heads MSLF’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms, explained that their clients were profoundly impacted by the broad-reaching rule imposed by the Biden Administration, necessitating a court challenge to safeguard their rights.

Abbas, in an exclusive conversation with Firearms News, remarked that the rule was exceedingly extensive and unfeasible. He pointed out that even raw materials such as filament and metal blocks had to be explicitly excluded by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). 

Abbas highlighted that the tradition of manufacturing one's firearms is deeply rooted in American culture, predating the Declaration of Independence. He mentioned that people, including their client Jennifer VanDerStok, participate in this practice by sourcing the necessary components and tools from businesses like Tactical Machining, another client.

Many readers may recall that the Biden Administration had attempted to pass a similar law in Congress, but it lacked sufficient support in both the House and Senate. While the Justice Department proposed this rule back in 2021, it failed to garner significant backing. Eventually, after relentless efforts, President Biden was successful in setting the new ATF rule, which reclassified many gun parts as firearms.

According to Abbas, it's critical to understand that the ATF's proposed rule could deem non-firearms as firearms, including mere assortments of parts. He expressed concerns that the ATF effectively empowered itself to regulate additional materials like tools, instructions, guides, and marketing materials to implement this rule.

Abbas expressed that MSLF’s legal arguments were simple and clear—the ATF had overstepped its congressional authority under the Gun Control Act by trying to redefine historically non-firearms as firearms. They argued their case based on ATF’s own previous declarations that the objects in question were not firearms and therefore fell outside the regulatory jurisdiction. Suddenly overturning this precedent posed serious threats to the business and legal statuses of citizens across the nation.

Judge Reed Connor of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas concurred with this argument in his ruling issued in early July. He stated that the role of the judiciary isn't to correct perceived policy loopholes—this responsibility rests with Congress. Until Congress enacts a different law, the court must enforce the existing law.

Abbas welcomed this ruling, stating that the court had recognized the rule's overreach by regulating items that the ATF was never intended to regulate, including firearm parts and items that are not yet firearms but could potentially become so.

Abbas also highlighted the importance of the ruling in reaffirming the right of individual Americans to construct their own firearms. He stated that due to stringent regulations in some states, many Americans choose to build their own firearms, which they are entirely entitled to do.

The government has appealed against this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled to commence on September 7. MSLF intends to remain resolute and continue their advocacy on behalf of their clients. As per Abbas, their primary argument remains the same: a piece of metal is not a firearm, and the ATF doesn't have the jurisdiction to argue otherwise.

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