07 Jul In-the-News Update [Issue: 2nd Amendment]
In a landmark victory for gun owners and law-abiding 2nd Amendment advocates, district court Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern Texas district granted summary judgement in the case VanDerStok v. Garland, vacating the ATF’s “Final Rule on Frames and Receivers”. The case is significant because it directly deals with the federal government’s (specifically the ATF’s) authority to regulate unfinished firearm frames and receivers, like those manufactured by Polymer80, as though they are complete frames or receivers, and thus subject to regulation of firearms under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA (1968)).
The ATF’s publishing of their “Final Rule” on frames and receivers alleged that unfinished frames and receivers, including those that are sold in kits, that can readily be machined or finished to be complete frames or receivers, are therefore subject to regulation as complete firearms under the statutory language of the GCA (1968). The problem with the ATF’s reasoning is that the GCA (1968) is very specific in its definitions of firearms, frames, and receivers. Their intent to include unfinished frames and receivers, and the kits to build them, under their statutory authority to regulate via a rule change inherently contradicts the stated language of the legislation from which their jurisdiction is derived.
As such, the court rightly vacated the “Final Rule on Frames and Receivers” by acknowledging this contradiction and affirming that the ATF’s regulatory authority must operate within the confines of the statutory limitations granted by congress. In laymans terms, this means that until otherwise legislated, it is legally impermissible for the ATF to regulate unfinished frames, receivers, and firearms kits.
With other cases, like Mock v. Garland, that deal with the ATF’s authority to regulate firearms parts, currently being litigated, the outcome of VanDerStok v. Garland offers some hope that this trend of holding the ATF accountable to their statutory limitations proves to be durable and consistent.