|September 22, 2022 – In April, 2022, the ATF published Final Rule 2021R-05F that, among other things, revised the definitions of “Frame” and “Receiver” to include some unfinished firearm frames in an attempt to curb the spread of so-called “Ghost Guns.” You can read more about the Final Rule here.|
The Final Rule went into effect in early August and it had an immediate effect. Many law-abiding businesses that sold unfinished firearm frames suddenly had their stock transform into “firearms” overnight. Without a Federal Firearms License or the means to conduct background checks, these businesses could not sell their products and faced closing down.
Jennifer VanDerStok, Michael Andren, Tactical Machining, LLC and the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc. sued the Department of Justice and the ATF in federal court in the Northern District of Texas. VanDerStok and Andren are individuals who own some firearm components that they intend to use to lawfully manufacture firearms for personal use, and they claim that the Final Rule prevents them from purchasing other necessary components to do so. Tactical Machining, meanwhile, sells unfinished frames and receivers, as well as other firearms components, and it claims that the Final Rule will eliminate over 90% of its business and cause it to go out of business. The plaintiffs alleged that the Final Rule exceeded the authority granted to the ATF by statute and requested a preliminary injunction that would prevent the ATF from enforcing the Final Rule.
In early September, Judge Reed O’Connor issued a decision partially granting the preliminary injunction (see the full decision here). Judge O’Connor ruled that the ATF clearly overstepped its authority when it criminalized the sale or purchase of products that were, by the ATF’s own admission, not firearm frames or receivers yet. However, only Tactical Machining demonstrated that it would suffer “irreparable harm” if the injunction was not ordered. Therefore, the ATF cannot enforce the Final Rule against Tactical Machining only.
The Final Rule is currently still valid and enforceable against all other businesses and persons. While Judge O’Connor ruled that the plaintiffs demonstrated a strong likelihood of success in their lawsuit, the Final Rule will not be deemed unlawful or unenforceable until the case has concluded and invariably been appealed. While it may appear that the Final Rule will soon be overturned, the legal process can take many months or years to conclude. In the meantime, Renzulli Law Firm is continuing to monitor legislative developments and litigation that affects the firearms industry. If you have any questions about complying with the Final Rule or how Judge O’Connor’s ruling could potentially affect your business, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.