Fifth Circuit Upholds Injunction Against the ATF’s Frames And Receiver Rule

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has faced considerable legal blowback in recent months for its final rule on frames and receivers (ATF Final Rule 2021R-05F) that treated these items as firearms. 

After a lengthy litigation process, gun owners appeared to have scored a solid victory. 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling upholding the majority of the preliminary injunction granted to Defense Distributed and 80 Percent Arms in the VanDerStok v. Garland case. 

Following Judge Reed O’Conner’s decision to vacate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) final rule on frames and receivers (ATF Final Rule 2021R-05F), the Department of Justice (DOJ) turned to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for an appeal of the decision. The Fifth Circuit ended up upholding Judge O’Connor’s decision. 

After failing to get a favorable ruling at the Circuit Court level, the DOJ would subsequently petition the United States Supreme Court to step in and block the court order. The Supreme Court would then stay Judge O’Connor’s ruling to vacate the rule until the Supreme Court ultimately decides whether it will take on the case.

Defense Distributed and 80 Percent Arms would petition Judge O’Connor to grant an additional injunction, which he would later grant for the two companies. The Justice Department would appeal to the Fifth Circuit, asserting that the stay the Supreme Court issued encompassed the injunctions, thereby nullifying the injunctions. 

The Fifth Circuit resoundingly rejected the government’s assertion. The Filth Circuit said that the Supreme Court decision is binding on the lower courts, but it does not believe the Supreme Court bars the courts from issuing injunctions. The Fifth Circuit determined that the Supreme Court stay is only applicable to the rule from being vacated. 

The Fifth Circuit agreed that Judge O’Connor’s injunction overstepped its boundaries. The judges determined that the injunction is only applicable to the two aforementioned companies and does not apply to the customers due how the ATF has already publicly agreed to not take punitive action against customers. In other words, the customers don’t have standing in this case because they don’t face any threats from the ATF for purchasing products. That means the customers do not have standing because they are not under threat of any actions by the ATF for buying products. 

Overall, this is a solid ruling that gives certain gun owners breathing room against some of the ATF’s unconstitutional actions. However, there are limits to litigation. 

The court system is still very much staffed with an elite class that often holds values completely alien from gun owners in Middle America. While the present makeup of the courts is favorable towards gun owners, that might not be the case soon. 

For that reason, gun owners must continue using their multi-pronged strategy of using legislative action at all levels of government, litigation, and electioneering to restore their gun rights. There are multiple ways to skin this cat and putting all our eggs in one basket is not wise in this arduous struggle against Gun Control Inc. 


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