Federal Court: ATF Overstepped
Authority with "Final Rule",
Denies ATF Motion for "Clarification

Images from ATF New Definition of Firearm in "Final Rule"

By Dean Weingarten. Oct 4, 2022

On September 2, 2022, the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, issued an Opinion and Order granting a preliminary injunction, in part, on the ATF "Final Rule" which radically changed the decades long definition of what is a firearm in federal law. The opinion explains that ATF created the longstanding definition of what is a firearm in 1978. Now, over forty years later, they are updating and expanding the definition into new areas. From the opinion/order, p. 2-4:

In April 2022, ATF published a Final Rule changing, among other things,the 1978 definition of "frame or receiver." See Definition of "Frame or Receiver" and Identification of Firearms, 87 Fed. Reg. 24,652 (Apr. 26, 2022) (codified at 27 C.F.R. pts.447, 478, and 479(2022)). 1ATF split the phrase into two parts, assigning the term "frame" to handguns and the term "receiver" to any firearm other than a handgun, such as rifles and shotguns. See 27 C.F.R. §478.12(a)(1), (a)(2). ATF then defined the terms "frame" and "receiver" along the same lines as the 1978 rule, though with updated, more precise technical terminology.2 But ATF did not stop there.

Rather than merely updating the terminology,ATF decided to regulate partial frames and receivers. Under the new Final Rule, "[t]he terms 'frame'and 'receiver' shall include a partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver, including a frame or receiver parts kit, that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to function as a frame or receiver."Id.§478.12(c). But "[t]he terms shall not include a forging, casting, printing, extrusion, unmachined body, or similar article that has not yet reached a stage of manufacture where it is clearly identifiable as an unfinished component part of a weapon (e.g., unformed block of metal, liquid polymer, or other raw material)." Id. When determining whether an object is a frame or receiver, the ATF Director is not limited to looking only at the object. "When issuing a classification, the Director may consider any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials that are sold, distributed, or possessed with the item or kit ...." Id.

The Final Rule also amends ATF's definition of "firearm" to include weapon parts kits.The ATF's new definition of "firearm," "shall include a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive." Id.§478.11(definition of "firearm").

The Court found ATF exceeded their authority. From the opinion/order, p. 6: .....


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