August 30, 2022
Yesterday, Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) filed a case against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) over its Final Rule regulating the self-manufacture of firearms and inoperable weapon parts. Representing Mike Andren, Jennifer VanDerStok, and Tactical Machining, LLC, MSLF seeks to block the implementation and enforcement of a new regulation that redefines the statutorily defined term “firearm.” MSLF argues that the ATF’s rule wrongly defines many inert objects as firearms, imposing severe regulatory burdens that will have a chilling effect on the practice of firearm self-manufacture, and exceeds the rule-making authority of the executive branch.
MSLF Attorney Kaitlyn Schiraldi said, “Making and crafting firearms is a practice older than our Constitution, and personally manufacturing firearms is an essential part of our natural right to defend ourselves. As the Supreme Court just clarified in Bruen v. NYSPRA, we have to look at the text of the Second Amendment as informed by history, and the history clearly embraces self-manufacture. Our history also demonstrates that this case is about more than our Second Amendment rights. It’s about those rights that come before any human institution.”
As MSLF argues, should the ATF’s Final Rule stand, it would create confusion within the firearms manufacturing industry, especially among smaller outlets and individual retailers, such as Tactical Machining, who say their business is already threatened by the Final Rule. Another MSLF client, Mike Andren—a Texas firearms instructor and former aerospace engineer—says he takes satisfaction in building something and then using it, especially when it has more precision than a mass-produced firearm. The Final Rule would greatly hinder his practice.
According to Schiraldi, in the course of violating natural rights protected by the Second Amendment, the Biden Administration’s rulemaking overstepped basic constitutional provisions such as the separation of powers under Article I and the president’s duty to carry out existing federal laws under the “Take Care” Clause of Article II.
MSLF Attorney Erin Erhardt contends that under the statutory terms of the Administrative Procedure Act, the ATF and DOJ exceeded their authority, failed to observe procedures required by law, and made an unjustified departure from prior ATF positions. The result, she argues, is a chilling effect that makes pursuing one’s rights dangerous.
Such an example is MSLF’s third client, Jennifer VanDerStok. A writer and editor for a small local magazine, she and her husband had hoped to purchase the means to build their own firearms. She’s worried, however, about the impact of the Final Rule on her capacity to self-manufacture. She says she’s suing the ATF to ensure she can exercise her rights with confidence.
Per Erhardt, “The President isn’t a lawmaker and thus cannot use the federal bureaucracy to sidestep Congress. He can’t just make a rule to enact his anti-gun agenda when no congressional law permits or contemplates such an agenda. The Final Rule is an attempt to bludgeon the Constitution and intimidate peaceable Americans from practicing their rights. It’s reprehensible for any president to do this on any issue, but especially when it involves the natural right to protect our lives and our loved ones.”
MSLF’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms is launching this case against the ATF. The Center filed a petition for agency review in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.