Texas Federal Court Determines that Partial Frames & Receivers Are Not Firearms

It’s an open secret that the Biden administration has been using the ATF to destroy the Second Amendment via extra-legislative means. One way it has attempted to do so is by greatly broadening the definition of what constitutes a “frame or receiver” for a firearm.

During the Biden administration, the ATF has worked to vastly expand the definition of what a “frame or receiver” of a firearm is. On June 30, 2023, Texas District Judge Reed O’Connor vacated the ATF “Final Rule” on frames and receivers.  O’Connor spelled out why he vacated this regulation in an excerpt from the order p. 3:

This case presents the question of whether the federal government may lawfully regulate partially manufactured firearm components, related firearm products, and other tools and materials in keeping with the Gun Control Act of 1968. Because the Court concludes that the government cannot regulate those items without violating federal law, the Court holds that the government’s recently enacted Final Rule, Definition of “Frame or Receiver” and Identification of Firearms, 87 Fed. Reg. 24,652 (codified at 27 C.F.R. pts. 447, 478, and 479), is unlawful agency action taken in excess of the ATF’s statutory jurisdiction. On this basis, the Court vacates the Final Rule.

Dean Weingarten of AmmoLand noted that the order rejected the argument that the ATF has the power to modify the definition of what constitutes a firearm without receiving congress’s approval:

As this Court has previously discussed, the definition of “firearm” in the Gun Control Act does not cover all firearm parts. It covers specifically “the frame or receiver of any such weapon” that Congress defined as a firearm. 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(3)(B). And that which maybe come or may be converted to a functional receiver is not itself a receiver. Congress could have included firearm parts that “may readily be converted” to frames or receivers, as it did with “weapons” that “may readily be converted” to fire a projectile. Id. § 921(a)(3)(A), (a)(4)(B). But it omitted that language when talking about frames and receivers.

Judge O’Connor expanded on what Congress didn’t do. He writes that the ATF may not override Congress’ authority.  P. 28 of the order detailed this below:

Congress excluded other adjectives that ATF adds to its definition. Specifically, the Final Rule covers “disassembled” and “nonfunctional”frames and receivers. 27 C.F.R. §478.12(c). Congress’s definition does not. Again, compare the language in Congress’s primary definition of “firearm” to its secondary definition covering frames and receivers. The primary definition of “firearm” includes any “weapon” that “is designed to” fire a projectile. 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(3)(A). That language covers disassembled, nonfunctional, and antique firearms because they are “designed” to fire projectiles even if they are practically unable to do so. But Congress wanted to exclude antiques, so it explicitly said the “term does not include an antique firearm,” once again demonstrating awareness of the scope of the language it chose. Id.§921(a)(3). In contrast, Congress did not choose to cover firearm parts that are “designed” to be frames or receivers—that is, incomplete, nonfunctional frames or receivers. “That omission is telling,” particularly when Congress used the more expansive terminology in the same definition. Collins, 141 S. Ct. at 1782.In sum, ATF’s new definition of “frame or receiver” in 27 C.F.R. §478.12(c) is facially unlawful given its conflict with the ordinary meaning of those terms as read within their immediate statutory context. Sturgeon, 577 U.S. at 438 (cleaned up).

Judge O’Connor stressed that “weapons parts kits are not weapons” which he explained in P 35:

In sum, there is a legal distinction between a weapon parts kit, which may be an aggregation of partially manufactured parts not subject to the agency’s regulatory authority, and a “weapon” which “may readily be completed [or] assembled . . . to expel a projectile.” 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(3)(A). Defendants contend that drawing such a distinction will produce the absurd result whereby a person lawfully prohibited from possessing a firearm can obtain the necessary components and, given advances in technology, self-manufacture a firearm with relative ease and efficiency.86 Even if it is true that such an interpretation creates loopholes that as a policy matter should be avoided, it not the role of the judiciary to correct them. That is up to Congress. And until Congress enacts a different statute, the Court is bound to enforce the law as written.

The judge was correct in vacating the ATF regulation. In reality, the ATF orders need to be more than just vacated. The agency itself needs to be subjected to strict funding cuts and eventually abolished. Its continued existence poses a major threat to gun rights in America and the longer its allowed to operate with impunity, the more likely Gun Control Inc. will be able to pull off major transgressions against our right to bear arms.

Our Latest Articles