U.S. Appeals Court Strikes Down Biden’s Overreach on ATF Gun Rule
In a significant blow to the Biden administration, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a controversial ATF rule seeking to regulate guns without serial numbers and redefine the term “firearm.” The court’s decision, delivered unanimously, challenges the ATF’s attempt to expand its regulatory authority beyond legal bounds.
The rule, introduced in April 2022, aimed to compel gun vendors to treat specific firearm parts, such as pistol grips and firing mechanisms, as fully completed firearms, requiring them to bear serial numbers for ATF tracking. The intention was to monitor homemade guns more closely.
The judges at the Fifth Circuit contended that the ATF had overstepped its legal authority, emphasizing that the agency was encroaching on legislative functions. In their view, the ATF was attempting to wield broader regulatory power than was granted to it by law.
Judge Kurt Engelhardt, writing on behalf of the court, expressed concerns about the ATF’s attempt to assume a legislative role, stating, “ATF, in promulgating its Final Rule, attempted to take on the mantle of Congress to ‘do something’ with respect to gun control. 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 court highlighted the constitutional implications of an executive agency engaging in quasi-legislative actions, asserting that such actions deprived citizens of fair representation and undermined the democratic process.
The controversial rule had been allowed to remain in effect by the Supreme Court during lower court proceedings. However, the Fifth Circuit’s decision deals a substantial setback to the Biden administration’s gun control agenda. The Department of Justice is expected to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a high-stakes legal battle.
Judge Andrew Oldham, a critic of the ATF’s rule, raised concerns about its scope and potential for unlimited regulations. He argued that the rule sought to govern any machined piece of metal or plastic, extending its reach to items transformed beyond their original state, with regulations persisting until the material is melted down.
The court’s decision is likely to reignite debates surrounding the balance of powers between executive agencies and Congress, particularly in the realm of gun control. While proponents contend it was necessary for tracking and regulating homemade firearms, Second Amendment supporters argue that the ATF’s rule represented an overreach.
As legal battles over gun control continue, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling underscores the importance of respecting constitutional boundaries and the separation of powers, reinforcing the principle that legislative authority rests solely with the elected representatives in Congress.