July 28, 2023 – As previously reported, the ATF issued Final Rule 2021-05F (“Final Rule”), which, among other things, changed the definition of a “firearm” to include partially completed frames and receivers, effective August 24, 2022. Various plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging two aspects of the Final Rule, specifically, the change in the definition of a “firearm” and the change in the definition of a “frame” or “receiver.” On June 30, 2023, Judge Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued an order vacating Final Rule 2021-05F in its entirety in the case of VanDerStok v. Garland. Judge Connor denied the ATF’s request for a stay of his order vacating the Final Rule pending appeal. The ATF filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and filed a motion to stay Judge Connor’s order with the Fifth Circuit.
The Fifth Circuit issued an order this week denying the ATF’s request to stay the particular provisions of the Final Rule that plaintiffs had challenged. The Court of Appeals concluded that the ATF had failed to demonstrate a strong likelihood that it would succeed on its arguments that the district court incorrectly held that the ATF exceeded its statutory authority by enacting the Final Rule and broadening the statutory definition of a “firearm.” The Fifth Circuit also held the ATF failed to demonstrate that it would be irreparably harmed without a stay, because the Final Rule has been in place for less than a year and the pre-existing framework had existed for 54 years.
Unless the ATF obtains a stay from the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court by August 3, 2023, the challenged provisions in the Final Rule are not enforceable. This means that the court has determined that ATF has no authority to regulate partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frames and receivers that may be “readily converted” into “frames and receivers” as firearms; and ATF has no authority to treat component parts of weapons, e.g., a parts kit, as the equivalent of a firearm under the Gun Control Act. All other provisions in the Final Rule, however, are again effective.
Renzulli Law Firm is continuing to monitor this appeal and other challenges to the Final Rule, as well as other legislative developments and litigation that effects the firearms industry. If you have any questions about the District Court’s order and partially complete frames, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.