Gun Hobbyists (and Liberty) Win Big in Court
The Biden administration’s scheme to threaten the public with tightened gun-control regulations by reinterpreting laws to mean what they never meant in the past is running into some speed bumps. Stumbling over one of those obstacles is an attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to define unfinished firearm frames and receivers—functionally, paperweights—as firearms for the purpose of regulating homemade “ghost guns.” The courts aren’t buying the government’s argument and on November 9 delivered another slap to regulators and the White House.
That Law Doesn’t Mean What You Claim It Means
“The agency rule at issue here flouts clear statutory text and exceeds the legislatively-imposed limits on agency authority in the name of public policy,” wrote Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt for three judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in ruling on VanDerStok v. Garland. “Because Congress has neither authorized the expansion of firearm regulation nor permitted the criminalization of previously lawful conduct, the proposed rule constitutes unlawful agency action, in direct contravention of the legislature’s will.”
Specifically, the court addressed portions of the ATF’s new “frame and receiver” rule which reinterpreted existing law, particularly elements of the Gun Control Act of 1968. The rule would extend the ATF’s reach and allow the government to restrict home construction of firearms in ways that the Biden White House wants as part of a crusade against so-called “ghost guns” but hasn’t been able to get through Congress.
In particular, the new ATF rule redefines firearms terms to incorporate modern devices that work differently than designs that were common when the law was written. The rule also treats unfinished parts that must be drilled, milled, and assembled by hobbyists to become working mechanisms—often called “80 percent receivers”—as if they are completed firearms. It additionally targets parts kits that can be combined with finished frames and receivers to make functioning guns. As I wrote last year, the rule’s language is “clear as mud” in seeking to subject as much activity as possible to regulation.
“The Final Rule is limitless,” wrote concurring Judge Andrew S. Oldham who agreed with the majority “without qualification” but wrote separately because he considered his colleagues insufficiently brutal to the ATF. “It purports to regulate any piece of metal or plastic that has been machined beyond its primordial state for fear that it might one day be turned into a gun, a gun frame, or a gun receiver. And it doesn’t stop regulating the metal or plastic until it’s melted back down to ooze.”
That was much the reaction of U.S. Distri
Article from Reason.com
The Reason Magazine website is a go-to destination for libertarians seeking cogent analysis, investigative reporting, and thought-provoking commentary. Championing the principles of individual freedom, limited government, and free markets, the site offers a diverse range of articles, videos, and podcasts that challenge conventional wisdom and advocate for libertarian solutions. Whether you’re interested in politics, culture, or technology, Reason provides a unique lens that prioritizes liberty and rational discourse. It’s an essential resource for those who value critical thinking and nuanced debate in the pursuit of a freer society.