The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a Biden administration ATF rule that sought to regulate guns without serial numbers and redefine the term “firearm.”
The court on Thursday said that the ATF had no legal authority to put forth a rule that would require gun vendors to treat firearm parts like pistol grips and firing mechanisms as fully completed firearms, meaning they would need to have serial numbers. The rule, which was first rolled out in April 2022, was intended for the ATF to be able track homemade guns.
Judges at the Fifth Circuit unanimously said the ATF had usurped legislative authority and that the ATF was trying to take broader regulatory authority than it actually had.
“Where an executive agency in what is, for all intents and purposes, ‘law making,’ the legislature is deprived of its final function under our Constitution, and our citizens are robbed of their right to fair representation in government. This is especially true when the executive rule-turned-law criminalizes conduct without the say of the people who are subject to its penalties,” Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote.
“ATF, in promulgating its Final Rule, attempted to take on the mantle of Congress to ‘do something’ with respect to gun control,” Engelhardt added. “But it is not the province of an executive agency to write laws for our nation. That vital duty, for better or for worse, lies solely with the legislature.”
The rule had been allowed to stay in place by the Supreme Court during lower court adjudication. The Department of Justice will likely appeal the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court.
Judge Andrew Oldham was critical of the ATF’s new rule, saying that it would allow a broad swath of regulations not explicitly spelled out in the rule.
“The Final Rule is limitless. It purports to regulate any piece of metal or plastic that has been machined beyond its primordial state for fear that it might one day be turned into a gun, a gun frame, or a gun receiver,” he wrote. “And it doesn’t stop regulating the metal or plastic until it’s melted back down to ooze.”