On June 30th, 2023, at the beginning of the weekend, before we celebrated our Independence as a nation and our freedoms, the Firearms Policy Coalition scored a MASSIVE victory over the ATF & illegitimate Biden Regime. Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. Northern District of Texas Federal Court ruled that the ATF’s ‘frame & receiver’ so-called ‘rule’ was NULL & VOID. Let’s dive into this exciting case and its implications! This case was filed by plaintiffs Jennifer VanDerStock and Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, represented by the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the ATF’s frame/receiver rule stating that 80% frames & receivers (pejoratively called ‘Ghost Guns’ by the anti-gun extremists & the Left) were no different than completed frames & receivers. An 80% frame or receiver is not fully machined & requires the buyer to perform the remaining 20% of machining before they can be used to assemble a completed functional firearm.
Biden himself famously committed a felony live on TV in April 2022 by possessing a Polymer80 made 80% Glock frame & jig and complete slide kit, showing it off in a speech at the Rose Garden. Within the District of Columbia, possession of an 80% frame or receiver is a Felony. Fast forward to the 23-second mark in this video to see Joe Biden commit a felony on camera for his anti-ghost gun photo op.
Several people reached out to the ATF, the U.S. Secret Service, and the White House, including journalist Emily Miller asking how this kit and frame/jig was acquired, who smuggled it into the White House, and who gave it to Joe Biden for his PR stunt. To date, none of these agencies returned repeated emails or phone calls asking for comment. But I digress; let’s move on!
The illegitimate Biden White House was taking a LOT of heat for Biden’s failure to force gun bans through Congress & that pressure resulted in Biden’s executive order directing ATF to simply CREATE new laws out of thin air that they call ‘rules’ to ban/restrict the items at the top of the anti-gun enterprise’s list: Bump Stocks, 80% frames & receivers (ghost guns) & Pistol Braces. The Washington Post discussed Biden’s anti-gun agenda in a now-deleted article outlining the Regime’s plans, but the BBC coverage of the Regime’s plans is still available online, and you can read it in detail at the link below. Note the part about “pursue Federal Charges against those involved in the trade of such weapons," Joe Biden has said, quoting the article.
Bump stocks were famously backdoor banned by former President Donald Trump after the horrific Las Vegas concert rampage killing. He did so through executive order directing the ATF to reclassify them as machine guns, even though they are NOT mechanically anything like a machine gun, and administratively changed the law to add them to the National Firearms Act of 1934 that requires government registry of all fully automatic firearms. The ATF was all too happy to oblige and rewrite the definition of a machine gun to illegally ban more firearms and increase its own power over gun owners. Donald Trump can be seen here discussing it:
Donald Trump’s executive order directed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to work with ATF to issue the rule on bump stocks, illegally adding them to the NFA. NBC News excitedly covered the story.
The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) says that to own a machine gun, a suppressor, or a short-barreled rifle or shotgun, you must register it with the Federal Government (ATF) & pay a $200 tax for a govt-provided stamp of permission authorizing you to possess/own it.
The NFA was a signature law pushed for and signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt and was largely enacted to take fully automatic firearms like the Thompson submachine gun, famously referred to by Al Capone as the Chicago Typewriter, out of the hands of bootlegging mobsters. During the 1930s, the $200 tax was meant to be a huge financial roadblock and, along with registry with the government, was intended to make these items out of reach of mobsters as well as ordinary citizens.
Owing to the devaluation of the U.S. Currency and inflation, that’s no longer the case, but many people do still balk at registering anything with the government. In light of FBI and DOJ abuses that have recently become public, who can really blame them? You can learn more about the National Firearms Act of 1934 and what constitutes an NFA-controlled item under the law.
So what does that have to do with VanDerStock v Garland? I’m glad you asked that! The bump stock ban was just the first statutory rule of three where the ATF simply rewrote key parts of both the NFA and Gun Control Act of 1968 (CGA), the laws that define what machine guns, frames and receivers, completed guns, gun parts, etc are. In very technical terms & language, Congress spelled out the definitions of what these items are, and the ATF rewrote those definitions in newly issued ‘rules’ to suit gun control aims.
The bump stock ban under Donald Trump, and now under Joe Biden, the ban on 80% frames/receivers, and on Pistol Braces followed the same methodology. The ATF abused and exceeded Statutory regulation powers granted by NFA and GCA to redefine what these things are to further restrict/regulate them above and beyond what the two laws actually said. The legal doctrine the ATF claims grants them the power to do so is Chevron Deference.
The goal was to overstep their legal, regulatory powers to restrict or ban items in lawful circulation and possession by millions of Americans that ATF previously had no regulatory power over and criminalize them. In VanDerStock v Garland, the plaintiffs alleged that ATF did exactly the same thing with frames and receivers as they did with bump stocks.
The ATF had to change the definition of a machine gun in its ‘determination’ of what a machine gun is in order to write a new ‘rule’ adding bump stocks (now defined as a machine gun) to the NFA, forcing previously law-abiding owners of bump stocks to register them as NFA regulated items, and pay a $200 tax. This new ‘rule’ came with criminal penalties & severe fines for anyone who didn’t comply with ATF’s new rule. But as mentioned previously, this rule ignored the limits of the legal doctrine it was written under and the limiting legal precedent that moderated it: Chevron Deference and the Rule of Lenity.
Chevron Deference is a legal doctrine that originates from a US Supreme Court ruling in Chevron USA v Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc in 1984. The U.S. SCOTUS set forth a legal test as to when the court should defer to the agency’s answer or interpretation, holding that such judicial deference is appropriate where the agency’s answer was not unreasonable, so long as Congress had not spoken directly to the precise issue at question.
This is of critical importance: Chevron Deference says if the law is vague, the court hearing a lawsuit will find for the Agency as the Agency is most qualified to interpret any vagueness of the law. THIS is the pretext both the ATF and the EPA have been using to far exceed their statutory authority, rewriting existing laws from tortured, twisted, revised interpretations of laws already on the books— primarily, the NFA, the GCA, the Clean Air Act of 1967, Clean Water Act of 1972, to suit the political aims of the moment.
The EPA has so far lost two Supreme Court cases in the last three terms, West Virginia v EPA where SCOUTS held EPA unconstitutionally exceeded statutory powers to create PUNITIVE restrictions on coal plants & automakers rewriting the Clean Air Act, and in Sackett v EPA where SCOTUS held EPA far exceeded its authority by illegally rewriting and expanding the Clean Waters Act. Both cases resulted from politically motivated directives of the Biden Regime pursuing their climate change agenda.
These Agency rewrites of laws relied on Chevron Deference as their legal basis and exist in the absence of the Agency’s application of the superseding principle of Rule of Lenity, as cited by both the 5th and 6th Circuit’s in their reversal and vacating of the ATF’s Bump Stock rule which followed the same methodology. The Rule of Lenity was a later decision coming after Chevron Deference wherein the court sought to narrow the scope of Chevron Deference. Quoting Cornell Law School here:
“The rule of lenity is a principle used in criminal law, also called rule of strict construction, stating that when a law is unclear or ambiguous, the court should apply it in the way that is most favorable to the defendant, or to construe the statute against the state. The rule of lenity stems from two constitutional objectives: first, the separation of powers, as it limits the scope of statutory language in penal statutes and does not allow the courts to establish the contours of a crime and its punishment. Second, the rule of lenity stems from the wish to “protect the legislature’s constitutional lawmaking prerogative and to limit the courts’ encroachment on a legislative function.”
Onto the ATF! Recently the Federal 5th Circuit Court Of Appeals (COA) ruled the ATF’s expansion of the NFA to include bump stocks illegally rewrote the NFA to add those items. The NFA has specific technical language defining what a Machine Gun is—the ATF just rewrote the definition, told owners of bump stocks under their new ‘rule’ (law made without Congress) that they must file for, be approved by ATF for, & obtain a $200 tax stamp from ATF and register them as machine guns under the NFA—or face 10 years in federal prison & a $250,000 fine. The 5th Circuit COA ruled against ATF.
Cargill v Garland
From Cargill v Garland, pages 3-4.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53415,53416,53417"]
From Cargill v Garland, pages 12-13: The ATF knew the Rule of Lenity applied, but instead of applying it, ignored it and wrote a capricious, malicious rule violating its Statutory Authority to pursue gun control, and rewrote the NFA to do it, citing Chevron Deference as granting them the authority to do so. There it is again, The Rule of Lenity. This was the first shoe to drop. The 5th Circuit COA ruled their bump stock rule an illegal overreach on ATF’s part and vacated the rule. It didn’t end there, though: the 6th Circuit COA also struck the bump stock ban down, citing the Rule of Lenity. See Hardin v ATF here:
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53419,53420,53422,53423"]
The decision in VanDerStock v Garland is the second major shoe to drop. Judge Reed O’Conner ruled that the ATF illegally rewrote the previously accepted definitions of frames and receivers that were in use and accepted since the 1968 GCA, just as a Federal court ruled the ATF had done with bump stocks in Cargill v Garland. The ATF’s definition change and subsequence rule changed the law by changing definitions to suit the Anti-Gun Agenda pushed by the illegitimate Biden Regime and the gun control enterprise consisting of Michael Bloomberg-funded astroturf groups like ‘Moms Demand Action’ ‘Everytown for Gun Safety’ and ‘Brady Group,’ putting forth criminal penalties for makers, sellers and owners far exceeding their statutory authority under the GCA.
The plaintiffs sued on the basis that the ATF’s *final* frames/receivers rule (created at the behest of gun control for profit groups and the Biden White House) violated the Administrative Procedures Act’s substantive & procedural requirements & exceeded the legal powers ATF was given under the GCA and that the rule was unconstitutional. Below from page 5:
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53424,53425,53426"]
You can see from what Judge O’Connor wrote here that the ATF just decided to change the definitions to suit what Joe Biden and the anti-gun enterprise called “Ghost Guns.” The definition change that allowed the rule to be created was capricious and malicious in nature. It was meant to criminalize an item the GCA left legal but was a major target for the Biden White House and these groups. The end goal was to bankrupt companies making these 80% completed frames and receivers and to use the weight of the federal government to come after anyone making them, buying them, or selling them as part of their agenda to stamp out ‘ghost guns.’
For the purposes of helping the reader understand what is being discussed, some pictures below have been added. The first photos show a Polymer80 Glock-style pistol frame that is incomplete. They come that way from Polymer80, and the end user must complete the remaining 20% of the machining to make them usable. Part of what ATF calls a completed gun is not only the incomplete frame but the jig that guides the end-user on where to drill and helps guide the end-user on what sections to mill out to complete the frame, as seen below.
*Note that only one pinhole appears and the rectangular fins are on the top edge. This frame is incapable of being made into a firearm until the remaining machining is completed. You can see in this picture it is on the left side of the jig used for machining. Next to the frame and jig is a completed Glock 17 slide that cannot be installed until the frame is completed and all parts you see in the picture are installed on the completed frame.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53413,53427"]
In this picture, you can see the frame in the jig assembly ready for machining, the tabs that need to be removed, and the wall in the guide rod channel that must also be milled out. This is not a completed frame, it is not possible to be built into a firearm yet.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53428,53429"]
These photos illustrate some of the machining, but not all, that must be completed in order to fully assemble this frame into a working firearm. These pictures show you why the ATF’s capricious redefining of what a frame/receiver is goes beyond what is discussed in the GCA and why they differ from the previously accepted definition in place for decades. ATF changed the definitions to try to regulate these kits out of existence and prevent Americans from privately building their own firearms.
It should be noted that since these frames are not completed, they do not come with a serial number etched into them. They are not born within the ATF’s tracking system and thus are not subject to the ATF’s illegal efforts to build a Federal Gun Registry. Detailed here are the real reason why the Biden Administration, the ATF, and anti-gun Gun Control Extremist groups want to ban these so badly.
Right away, the court addressed the motions to add plaintiffs with an interest in the case, and of PARTICULAR NOTE is Polymer80, Inc, who the ATF singled out explicitly in their press release on the new rule they sent to all Federal Firearms License holders (gun shops and gun sellers) abbreviated as FFL’s.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53430,53431,53432,53433,53434"]
After establishing the full list of litigants opposing the government (ATF + DOJ + Merrick Garland), the court moved on & detailed its lawful jurisdiction over the case. From pages 23 – 34 in the ruling, the Court discussed how the use of very specific technical language within definitions is written into laws. Specifically how the CGA is worded, and explains in detail how the ATF usurped the role of Congress and knowingly rewrote the law by changing those definitions.
This is the second federal court ruling against the ATF in as many years finding that the ATF was usurping the role of Congress and violating the Separation of Powers Act between the executive and legislative branches, as well as the Administrative Procedures Act by violating the spirit and the accepted regulatory authority granted by these laws and abusing Chevron Deference. It’s further noted that the ATF knowingly violated the principle of Lenity in all these capricious rules. The Rule of Lenity was meant to moderate how Agencies like ATF use Chevron. ATF, like EPA, has been ignoring Lenity to take punitive criminal actions against Americans for decades.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53439,53441,53437"]
The below excerpt taken from Judge O’Connor’s ruling shows ATF argued that both completed frames and receivers are frames and receivers, and incomplete frames and receivers are completed frames and receivers, and Judge O’Connor tells them bluntly their argument is a logical fallacy; that it’s self-serving nonsense.
This next part is truly incredible: the ATF, in its argument before the court, argued that because they’ve been abusing Chevron Deference and failing to apply Lenity for many years, this rule should also be allowed to stand because previous abuses justify and somehow grants them the power to carry out this abuse!
Judge O’Connor’s rebuttal is BRUTAL: Just because you’ve gotten away with abusing your power for decades doesn’t mean I’m going to rubber stamp it in my court.
This is an issue that is front & center today as American Citizens deal with government overreach in efforts by Federal Agencies to weaponize their powers against Americans.
Now onto the decision itself! The Court finds that:
“Because the ‘Final Rule’ purports to regulate both firearm components that are not yet a ‘frame or receiver’ & aggregations of weapon parts not otherwise subject to its statutory authority, the Court holds that ATF has acted IN EXCESS of its Statutory Jurisdiction by promulgating it..”
This next part is extremely telling. The ATF had the brazenness & arrogance in its filing to try to tell the court it doesn’t have the authority to vacate the rule! The court blatantly slaps the ATF down, and it is hilarious. Judge O’Connor cites chapter and verse and crushes that assertion.
The court goes on to say:
“Moreover, vacating the unlawful assertion of the agency’s authority would be minimally disruptive because vacatur simply “establish[es] the status quo” that existed for decades prior to the agency’s issuance of the Final Rule last year. Texas v. United States, 40 F.4th 205, 220 (5th Cir. 2022)."
It’s also hilarious and shows you how arrogant the government lawyers, in this case, were as they argued without citation that even if they lose, the injunction against the rule should only apply to litigants in this case!
Judge O’Connor again rebukes the government:
“Defendants argue that any vacatur should only be applied to the parties before the Court while citing no binding authority in support.”
LMAO! They KNEW they were going to lose and still had the audacity to tell the judge what he can/cannot do!
In the next paragraph, the court drops what amounts to a legal Atomic Bomb on the ATF and kills its rule dead, vacating the rule in its entirety (an illegal attempt at ATF writing a law) and ending it on the spot. And this next part takes this ruling and turns that Atomic Bomb the court dropped on ATF into a Thermonuclear Hydrogen Bomb.
The court not only vacates the ATF’s frame and receiver rule, but notes Polymer80, Inc’s separate ongoing lawsuit, rules that Polymer80, Inc. can PURSUE THE GOVERNMENT ON SEPARATE CLAIMS OF HARM, ORIGINATING FROM THE ILLEGAL ATF RAID ON POLYMER80’S FACILITIES, AND TARGETING THEM IN THEIR RELEASE TO FFL’S and in the making of their frame and receiver rule.
The ATF isn’t done being taken to the woodshed. Polyermer80 was singled out by ATF in an attempt to bankrupt them and destroy their business—the legal pain is not over for the ATF. They are going face liability in a separate suit overseen by Judge Reed O’Connor brought by Polymer80, Inc to recoup financial damages and reputational damage incurred by Polymer80 resulting from ATF’s illegal, malicious actions.
[gallery type="slideshow" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="53448,53447"]
Earlier in the decision, Judge O’Connor discusses Polymer80’s ongoing case before his court, a separate case from VanDerStock v Garland, which is still ongoing to remedy damages ATF created in targeting their business.
And now the Finale: the legal loophole ATF & EPA have been abusing to create these rules, rewriting laws in place of Congress, is about to be struck down by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is set to hear a case on the constitutionality of the very legal precedent ATF and EPA have been abusing as justification for their abusive overreaches.
The implications of this are far-reaching. It would severely limit these regulatory agencies’ ability to overstep their powers and constrain them to follow their legal mandates to strict adherence to the laws, as written, not interpreted. It would also render any appeals of these ATF and EPA cases to the U.S. Supreme Court mute because the doctrine their arguments relied on would no longer exist.
If the Supreme Court strikes down Chevron Deference as unconstitutional, the rulings mentioned in this article are final, and the door would be open to challenging many more regulations and rules of these agencies having a cascading effect.
More on this case from our friend The Liberty Doll over at youtube:
I want to issue a very warm thank you to the Firearms Policy Coalition & the Second Amendment Foundation for seeing this through and fighting SO HARD as lawfare Warriors to protect us and our rights!