A Northern District of Texas Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) attempt to regulate unfinished frames and receivers.
In 2021, President Joe Biden ordered the ATF to issue new rules surrounding unfinished firearms frames and receivers, known colloquially as 80% frames and receivers. The ATF refers to these items as privately made firearms (PMF). Anti-gun groups and politicians call these items “ghost guns” because they do not include serial numbers and require the end user to finish the item before it can fire.
In April 2022, President Biden unveiled the new rules designating those complete kits or any combination of parts to be firearms. This determination prevented companies from selling unfinished frames and jigs together. Last December, the ATF issued a letter once again redefining firearms to include polymer blank frames. The ATF issued this letter after pressure from members of Congress, the President, and anti-gun groups to close the “ghost gun loophole.”
Several lawsuits across the country challenged the legality of the Final Rule. One such case is VanDerStok v. Garland. Several companies, Jennifer VanDerStok, and the Firearms Policy Foundation, brought the case. The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Defense Distributed, best known for its Ghost Gunner desktop CNC machines, were two of the entities to intervene in the case.
Defense Distributed and SAF claimed that the ATF overstepped its power and violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) because the Bureau failed to consider relevant factors and data when issuing the Final Rule. Judge O’Connor agreed with the plaintiffs’ accusations and found they would likely succeed on the case’s merits.
The company was also able to prove irreparable harm. Irreparable harm is when a person or company is caused harm that cannot be repaired financially. Judge O’Connor found that Defense Distributed ran the real risk of being dissolved because of the Final Rule. The money lost would most likely not be recoverable because the defendants enjoy sovereign immunity, which protects them from paying damages. The government tried to claim that Defense Distributed’s descriptions of its products were too vague for a court to conclude that the company would suffer irreparable harm. The judge didn’t buy the government’s argument.
Defense Distributed is a member of the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC). Once it became clear that FPC being part of the case would not protect them from the Final Rule, the company filed to intervene in the case. The government tried to claim that since Defense Distributed waited nine months before intervening in the lawsuit proved that a preliminary injunction was unnecessary. The court accepted Defense Distributed’s explanation.
SAF celebrated the win. This case is just one of many cases around the country pushing back against Government overreach. Due to the government abusing its power and the Bruen decision, gun control laws and rules are being struck down in every corner of the nation.
“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling, which correctly finds we are likely to succeed on our claims,” said Adam Kraut, SAF’s Executive Director. “Judge O’Connor agrees that ATF’s final rule expanded the agency’s authority over parts that may be ‘‘readily converted’’ into frames or receivers, which surpasses the authority granted by Congress. Even more compelling is that the judge agrees that ATF’s Rule unlawfully treats parts kits as firearms. It is refreshing to see rogue administrative agencies being reined in by the checks and balances of our system of government.”
AmmoLand News spoke to the founder of Defense Distributed, Cody Wilson. Mr. Wilson stated that he believes that the ATF is doing the bidding of Gilfords and Everytown. He was happy with the judge’s decision but thinks this is only the beginning of the death of the Final Rule.
“This is not just a blow to ATF, who pushed a new definition of ‘‘firearm’’ at their peril,” Wilson told AmmoLand “It is also a defeat for Giffords, who were the agents of this illegal attempt to expand the Gun Control Act through the APA process. Their lobbying and regulatory laundry has now spectacularly backfired, and I’m going to personally send them a card and fruit basket.”
The injunction enjoins Defense Distributed, its employees, and its customers from the Final Rule. Defense Distributed is the latest of many companies now protected from the threat of criminal prosecution.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.