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Fifth Circuit Panel Unanimously Strikes Down ATF’s ‘Frame and Receiver’ Rule Redefining What

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Is anyone tired of winning in the courts yet? No, of course not. That’s why yesterday’s news of yet another Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals victory was just as sweet as the others. The latest judicial win was a ruling in VanDerStok v. Garland, the case challenging the Biden ATF’s frame or receiver rule that is a non-legislative re-definition of what constitutes a firearm.

The ruling by a three-judge panel was unanimous (and glorious). Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt wrote . . .

It has long been said—correctly—that the law is the expression of legislative will. As such, the best evidence of the legislature’s intent is the carefully chosen words placed purposefully into the text of a statute by our duly-elected representatives. Critically, then, law-making power—the ability to transform policy into real-world obligations—lies solely with the legislative branch. Where an executive agency engages in what is, for all intents and purposes, “law-making,” the legislature is deprived of its primary function under our Constitution, and our citizens are robbed of their right to fair representation in government. This is especially true when the executive rule-turned-law criminalizes conduct without the say of the people who are subject to its penalties.

The agency [ATF] rule at issue here flouts clear statutory text and exceeds the legislatively-imposed limits on agency authority in the name of public policy. 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.

Who could have guessed that? Then there was this gem from Judge Andrew S. Oldham . . .

The [ATF’s] Final Rule is limitless. 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. The [Gun Control Act] allows none of this. I concur in the majority’s opinion holding the Final Rule is unlawful. And I further concur that the matter should be remanded to the district court to fashion an appropriate remedy for the plaintiffs.

Here’s the FPC’s press release and Snoopy Dance . . .

Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and FPC Action Foundation (FPCAF) announced that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in their favor, holding that portions of ATF’s “frame or receiver” rule are unlawful in VanDerStok v. Garland. The Rule will remain in effect “pending the disposition of the appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari, if such a writ is timely sought,” per an August order from the Supreme Court. The opinion can be viewed at FPCLegal.org.

“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 Engelhardt for the Court. “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.”

“[U]nless and until Congress [] acts to expand or alter the language of the Gun Control Act, ATF must operate within the statutory text’s existing limits,” the Court concludes. “The Final Rule impermissibly exceeds those limits, such that ATF has essentially rewritten the law. This it cannot do, especially where criminal liability can—and, according to the Government’s own assertions, will—be broadly imposed without any Congressional input whatsoever.”

“This is yet another massive victory against ATF and a huge blow to the Biden Administration’s gun control agenda,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, FPCAF’s General Counsel and Vice President of Legal, and counsel for Plaintiffs. “ATF has no authority to make law, and the Biden Administration cannot circumvent Congress and the rights of the People through federal agency rulemakings–a point the Fifth Circuit just reiterated. We look forward to defending this win and to continuing to deliver additional victories to the People in the future.”

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 InstagramTwitterFacebookYouTube.

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