Supreme Court strikes down ATF bump stock reinterpretation

In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court has dealt yet another blow to the ATF’s rampant administrative overreach.

In the case of Garland v. Cargill, embedded below, the court ruled that, despite the emotional pleas underlying the push to reinterpret the statute, the statutory text is clear in its meaning.

A “semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock is not a ‘machinegun’ because it does not fire more than one shot ‘by a single function of the trigger.’”

They went on to note that the ATF and the judiciary are bound by the clear text of the statutes Congress enacts.  If Congress writes those statutes poorly, “it is never our job to rewrite . . . statutory text under the banner of speculation about what Congress might have done.”

And speaking of ‘rewriting’ or ‘reinterpreting’ statutes, we can only hope that there will soon be a ruling that reduces the amount of deference the courts grant to administrative agencies such as the ATF when they use their regulatory rulemaking authority to do that very thing.

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Posted in Administrative Deference, Administrative Law, ATF, ATF Ruling, Bump Fire Stocks, Court Rulings, Machine Guns, US Supreme Court | Comments Off on Supreme Court strikes down ATF bump stock reinterpretation

District Court grants summary judgment in case challenging ATF arm-brace rulemaking

Today the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted summary judgement in favor of the plaintiffs (gun owners) in the case of Mock v. Garland.

As you may remember, this was a suit challenging the ATF regulatory rulemaking that turned tens of thousands of arm-brace equipped pistols into NFA items virtually overnight.

In its ruling, the court pulled no punches when discussing the significant deficiencies in the ATF rulemaking process.

For close to a decade, the ATF concluded that “attaching the brace to a firearm does not alter the classification of the firearm or subject the firearm to NFA control.”  The ATF changed course on this position for the first time in 2023, when it issued the Final Rule reversing the agency’s otherwise long-standing policy. “When an agency changes course, as [the ATF] did here, it must ‘be cognizant that longstanding policies may have engendered serious reliance interests that must be taken into account.’”

“It would be arbitrary and capricious to ignore such matters” But this is exactly what Defendants did when they inexplicably and fundamentally switched their position on stabilizing braces without providing sufficient explanations and notice.

Under the Final Rule, the ATF estimated about 99% of pistols with stabilizing braces would be reclassified as NFA rifles. The ATF contemporaneously issued approximately sixty adjudications pursuant to the Final Rule that reclassified different configurations of firearms with stabilizing braces as NFA rifles. The ATF provided no explanations for how the agency came to these classifications and there is no “meaningful clarity about what constitutes an impermissible stabilizing brace.”

In fact, the Fifth Circuit “[could not] find a single given example of a pistol with a stabilizing brace that would constitute an NFA-exempt braced pistol.” Such “‘unexplained’ and ‘inconsistent’ positions” are arbitrary and capricious.

The Defendants’ disregard for the principles of fair notice and consideration of reliance interests is further exacerbated by its failure to follow the APA’s procedural requirements for public notice and comment. As discussed above, Defendants failed to follow proper notice-and-comment procedures because the Proposed Rule and the Final Rule differed in immense ways.

The entire ruling, which is embedded below, makes for quite enjoyable reading.  And while the ATF will almost certainly appeal this ruling, they will be fighting an uphill battle given the glaring issues the District Court identified.

PS.  I would encourage those who applied for, and subsequently received, one of the free tax stamps issued pursuant to this rule to read this previous article I had written about possible legal pitfalls.

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Posted in 2021R-08F, 2A, Administrative Deference, Administrative Law, AR Pistols, Arm Brace, ATF, ATF Ruling, BATFE, Court Rulings, Federal Court, Fifth Circuit, Regulatory Rulemaking, Stabilizing Brace, Tax Stamp | Comments Off on District Court grants summary judgment in case challenging ATF arm-brace rulemaking

SilencerShop confirms that approvals for trusts the ATF sees frequently are as fast as individual approvals

I had written about this in my previous article, but I think it bears repeating  … the process changes recently made by the ATF and the FBI provide equal benefits to trust and individual applicants, especially when the trust is a ‘standardized’ trust that is seen frequently by the ATF, such as the one I provide to my clients.

In an article posted by SilencerShop that has been making the rounds on the NFA community on Reddit, they confirm these facts.

A few key takeaways from the SilencerShop article:

“Are Trusts Approvals as Fast as Individual? Yes, both trust and individual applications are coming back very fast, we have seen single-day approvals for both types of applications.”

“If you’re looking at the NFA Wait Time Tracker, it will appear that trusts are taking longer than individuals, but this is due to how ATF implemented these changes.”

“While we consistently see trust applications approved in a few days, the average appears higher as all of the older applications are being approved. Trust applications submitted after this process change, around March 15th, 2024, seem to be processing very quickly.”

SilencerShop also discussed a point that I have brought up repeatedly when discussing the issue with my clients.  The NFA Branch is prioritizing ‘standardized’ trusts which are those trusts, such as my own, that they see frequently and do not require research to validate.

They also reiterated that those that have a single responsible person are being processed more quickly since only a single ‘proceed’ is needed to complete the process.

The $100 Virginia trust I provide meets all these requirements and includes lifetime free updates, changes, and questions.  But regardless of which trust you use, do not forego the significant benefits offered by using a trust based upon a mistaken belief that only individual applications are seeing rapid turnaround times.

Posted in AOW, ATF, Background Checks, BATFE, eForms, Form 1, Form 4, Machine Guns, NFA Transfers, NFA Trusts, Processing Times, SBR, SBS, Short Barreled Rifles, Short Barreled Shotguns, Suppressors, Tax Stamp | Comments Off on SilencerShop confirms that approvals for trusts the ATF sees frequently are as fast as individual approvals

Is Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law unconstitutional? A California case may provide the answer.

In Nguyen v. Bonta, a case challenging California’s one-gun-a-month (OGM) law, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California has ruled that the OGM law is unconstitutional and must be enjoined under the historical analog test laid out in N.Y. Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022).

In the opinion, the District Court held that “[Buying more than one firearm in a specific period of time] is presumptively protected because it is covered by the plain text of the Second Amendment”.  They went on to note that the State failed to satisfy its burden of “producing a ‘well-established and representative historical analogue’ to the OGM law,” as required by Bruen.

The state has appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and, regardless of the outcome, the Supreme Court will almost certainly be asked to weigh in on the case.

While it is too soon to make predictions, this case may well be the beginning of the end for these types of unconstitutional restrictions on the rights of law-abiding citizens acquiring arms during the time period of their choosing.

Posted in 2A, 9th Circuit, Bruen Decision, Court Rulings, Criminal Law, Federal Court, One Handgun a Month, SCOTUS, Second Amendment, US Supreme Court | Comments Off on Is Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law unconstitutional? A California case may provide the answer.

Supreme Court rules unanimously in NRA’s favor in Vullo case

In today’s Supreme Court decision regarding National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, the key issue centered on whether a New York state regulator’s actions violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights.

Specifically, the case examined whether Maria T. Vullo, then Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, unconstitutionally used her political power to coerce banks and insurance companies into no longer doing business with the NRA due to its stance in favor of gun rights.

This is an issue that gun rights advocates have feared for some time, as anti-gun politicians see this as a way to freeze pro-gun organizations out of the marketplace.  For example, gun stores have found it increasingly difficult to find insurance companies, credit card processors, and even secure banking services.

In a strong rebuke to Ms. Vullo’s position, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the NRA, finding that Vullo’s actions constituted a clear violation of the First Amendment. The Court determined that the regulator’s efforts to influence financial institutions to sever ties with the NRA, based on the organization’s protected speech, were coercive and therefore unconstitutional.

The decision, written by Justice Sotomayor, hits the key issue and the holding in the first paragraph:

Six decades ago, this Court held that a government entity’s “threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion” against a third party “to achieve the suppression”
of disfavored speech violates the First Amendment. Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U. S. 58, 67 (1963). Today, the Court reaffirms what it said then: Government officials
cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors.

This important ruling sets a strong precedent limiting the extent to which government officials can pressure private companies to act against organizations based on their advocacy positions and will provide a framework for challenging other state and federal agencies should this method of cutting off services to the firearms industry continue.

Posted in 2A, Court Rulings, Federal Court, First Amendment, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court | Comments Off on Supreme Court rules unanimously in NRA’s favor in Vullo case