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ATF Takes Another “L” in in Court Over Frames and Receivers Rule

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An image of a guy making the "loser L" on his forehead.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit just handed the ATF another big loss in the VanDerStock v. Garland case challenging its overreaching frames and receivers rule.

As we reported earlier, in July a district court vacated the entire rule nation-wide telling the ATF they had no authority to redefine what Congress had defined by law. The district court granted a seven-day administrative stay to allow the ATF to bring an emergency appeal.

In considering the ATF’s emergency appeal, the three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit Appeals Court considered the following criteria:

  1. whether the government makes a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits;
  2. whether the government will be irreparably injured in the absence of a stay;
  3. whether other interested parties will be irreparably injured by a stay; and
  4. where the public interest lies.

In the short, 4 page decision, the panel arrived swiftly at their conclusion:

Because the ATF has not demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits, nor irreparable harm in the absence of a stay, we DENY the government’s request to stay the vacatur of the two challenged portions of the Rule. “[V]acatur . . . reestablish[es] the status quo ante,” Defense Distributed v. Platkin, 55 F.4th 486, 491 (5th Cir. 2022), which is the world before the Rule became effective. This effectively maintains, pending appeal, the status quo that existed for 54 years from 1968 to 2022.

The appeals court noted, however, that they believe the district court acted too broadly in vacating the entire rule, as opposed to the challenged portions.

The ATF is likely correct, however, that the vacatur was overbroad. The district court analyzed the legality of only two of the numerous provisions of the Rule….Because the agency has shown a strong likelihood of success on its assertion that the vacatur of the several non-challenged parts of the Rule was overbroad, we STAY the vacatur, pending appeal, as to the non-challenged provisions.

In essence, the panel said that the ATF overstepped its authority in redefining frames and receivers (and tossed that part of their rule out the door), but other parts of the rule may yet still be able to be enacted. It’s likely that the ATF will further appeal this case but this is an excellent precedent and a win for the Second Amendment.

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