SCOTUS to Hear Another Second Amendment Case

posted on April 24, 2024
Daniel Huizinga courtesy Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear VanDerStok v. Garland, a case that challenges the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) so-called “ghost gun” rule, later this year.

The ATF rule, initially issued in 2022, treats some firearms parts and part kits as if they are actually functional firearms. It requires that these parts, such as a frame or receiver, be treated like they are a completed firearm. As such, manufacturers and sellers of such parts would need to be licensed, and the parts must have serial numbers. It also requires purchasers of these reclassified parts to be subject to background checks before acquiring them, just like when buying a complete firearm from a licensed dealer.

“The rule is being marketed through the credulous anti-gun media as a means of regulating ‘ghost guns,’ or unmarked firearms manufactured by those other than federal firearm licensees (FFLs). The latter have long been required to stamp firearms with specified markings and keep detailed records of their production and distribution. Even this premise, however, doesn’t make a lot of sense,” reported the NRA Institute for Legislative Action at the time. “‘Ghost guns’ are no more lethal or dangerous than ‘mortal’ guns. They are simply more difficult to trace back to the original maker or owner.”

Judge Reed O’Connor of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas struck down this rule last year noting that the rule exceeded the scope of the ATF’s authority. A three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his ruling. The ATF “has been attempting to foist new, far-reaching regulations upon American gun owners,” constitutional attorney Stephen P. Halbrook wrote of the rule for America’s 1st Freedom.

“U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor … noted in his lengthy ruling that the government agencies simply do not have regulatory power over firearms parts, regardless of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) apparent belief that it does possess such authority (the DOJ oversees the ATF),” we reported at the time.

The DOJ then appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) permits the rule because it defines a firearm to include “any weapon … which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projective by the action of an explosive,” and the “frame or receiver of any such weapon.”

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the regulation to remain in effect while the lawsuit worked its way through the courts. We will keep you updated of any and all developments when the Supreme Court does hear this case later this year.


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