Saturday, February 10, 2024

U.S. Government Appeals to Supreme Court Over ATF's Firearms & Receivers Rule


(Image: GunMag Warehouse)

The U.S. Government has petitioned the Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari, challenging a decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that maintained a District Court’s preliminary injunction. This injunction prevented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from implementing its final rule on frames and receivers (Final Rule 2021R-05F).

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The dispute, known as VanDerStok v. Garland, originated in Texas and involved plaintiffs Jennifer VanDerStok, Michael Andren, the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), and Tactical Machining L.L.C. They contested the ATF’s redefinition of unfinished firearm frames as firearms. Following their initial victory, additional companies within the 80% firearms industry sought to join the case. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor then issued a nationwide injunction, effectively nullifying the rule.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed this decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to reverse the injunction. However, a three-judge panel largely allowed the injunction to remain, sidelining the rule. Opting against a full court review (en banc hearing) due to the Fifth Circuit’s prior ruling against the ATF’s bump stock regulation in Cargill v. Garland, the government sought intervention from the Supreme Court to pause the appellate decision while pursuing the high court’s review.

The Supreme Court, in a tight 5–4 decision, agreed to maintain the stay until it resolves whether to hear the case. Should the Supreme Court decline to review the case, the stay will be lifted, and the rule voided once again.

The government argues that the Supreme Court’s review is crucial for public safety, suggesting that regulating “ghost guns” as firearms is necessary to prevent legal circumvention by ineligible individuals and to aid law enforcement in tracing firearms used in crimes. This stance, however, seems to challenge the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, which mandates that considerations regarding the Second Amendment should be based solely on its original text, tradition, and history.

“Ghost guns provide a ready means for felons, minors, and others who are prohibited from buying firearms to circumvent the law — thwarting Congress’s ‘comprehensive scheme’ intended to ‘verify a would-be gun purchaser’s identity,’ ‘check on his background,’ and thereby keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who should not have them.’” The government states. “And on the back end, the lack of records and serial numbers means that ghost guns have ‘severely undermine[d]’ law enforcement’s ability to ‘determine where, by whom, or when’ a firearm used in a crime was manufactured and ‘to whom [it was] sold or otherwise transferred.’ That, in turn, has impaired law enforcement’s ability to apprehend violent individuals who may pose an ongoing threat to public safety. By ensuring that ghost guns are regulated as what they actually are — firearms — the two challenged provisions of the Rule ‘prevent easy circumvention of the [Act’s] entire regulatory scheme’ and are thus ‘critical to public safety.’”

The outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case will significantly affect the regulation of the 80% firearms market and future ATF regulations.

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