The orders and filings in this case can be found here if you want a sense of how many trees die and filings are made in such a case:
This is an appeal by the ATF of a Texas district court decision denying the ATF’s request for a preliminary injunction allowing the ATF to enforce its rule defining what a receiver and frame are with respect to being firearms. The action is brought by plaintiff who are a couple who presumably want to build a firearm and a machining business that makes and sells 80% lowers. There are bunch of intervenors, as well.
The Gun Control Act defines the term “firearm” four different ways: “(A) any weapon
which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device.” But “[s]uch term does not include an antique firearm.” Congress delegated authority to administer and enforce the Act to the Attorney General. The Attorney General, in turn, delegated that authority to the ATF. Passing the buck at its finest.
In 1978, ATF promulgated a rule interpreting the phrase “frame or receiver.” The rule
defined the “frame or receiver” of a firearm as “[t]hat part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel.” That definition remained in place until 2022.
In April 2022, ATF published new rule changing the 1978 definition of “frame or receiver” and the ATF decided to regulate partial frames and receivers. Under the new 2022 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.”
But, according to the ATF’s 2022 rule “frame or receiver” "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).” 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 . . . .”
The 2022 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.”
This is how law is made through the administrative rule-making authority delegated to an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat – the Director of the ATF.
The ATF wants the authority to enforce its 2022 rule pending the result in the actual trial in District Count. The court rejected the ATF’s request. The appellate court upheld the District Court’s rejection, and that’s what made the news.
This is just the bare beginnings of a complex legal proceeding that will enrich a lot of lawyers, and in the end, unaccountable judges in states you may not live in will make decisions about everyone’s right to keep and bear arms in a convoluted administrative rule-making trial.