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SCOTUS To Hear Case That Could Curb ATF Overreach

Technically, the case revolves around overregulating the fishing industry, but it has huge ramifications for the ATF's unconstitutional firearm overregulation.

SCOTUS To Hear Case That Could Curb ATF Overreach

SCOTUS To Hear Case That Could Curb ATF Overreach (Scott Maxwell LuMaxArt/Shutterstock)

How is the National Marine Fisheries Service seeking to charge herring fishing vessels as much as $700 a day to monitor what they catch even vaguely related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) redefining braced pistols as short-barreled rifles (SBRs)? That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court is set to determine. Last week, the high court announced it would hear the case Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which revolves around the excessive powers usurped by various federal agencies over the past few decades. Representatives from the fishing industry say that even though a law passed by Congress allows for the monitors on herring boats, the agency is making up its own rules by forcing the owners of the boats pay for that monitoring.

The case seeks to limit or overturn the important ruling in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. That 1984 ruling set the precedent that if part of the law Congress wrote relegating an agency’s power is ambiguous but the agency’s interpretation is reasonable, judges should defer to the agency’s discretion. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Basically, in the case of firearms, when Congress writes vague laws due to a lack of understanding on how the gun industry operates, or due to a poor understanding of Founder’s intent regarding the 2nd Amendment, BATFE steps in to interpret how the new law can be enforced as Congress did not detail that information, or exactly what was banned. Congress is also to be blamed.]

“Chevron deference has proven corrosive to the American system of checks and balances and directly contributed to an unaccountable executive branch, overbearing bureaucracy and runaway regulation,” Ryan Mulvey, counsel with Cause of Action that represents the fishermen, said of the longstanding precedent. “These fishing families and all those seemingly living at the mercy of Washington deserve better.”

If making up rules that aren’t actually found in federal law sounds familiar, that’s because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has become quite adept at doing just that, especially when directed to by an anti-gun president. Two recent examples, of course, are the recent “rules” redefining “firearms,” “receivers” and “frames,” along with the one redefining braced pistols as “short-barreled rifles” (SBRs).

In fact, ATF’s tendency to make laws rather than enforce them once again came under fire from Congress in a recent U.S. House Judiciary Committee Hearing that featured questioning of ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. In that hearing, many committee members intensively questioned Dettelbach about the recent pistol brace rule, which affected some 40 million lawful Americans.

“This is not a new issue, and the ATF and the entirety of the regulatory state continue to engage in illegal lawmaking,” Rep. Harriett Hageman, R-Wyoming, told the ATF director during the hearing. “You have repeatedly stated that the ATF only carries out the laws as passed by Congress, but that isn’t true.

“It’s a pretty scathing indictment of the ATF’s attempt to subvert the lawmaking authority of Congress by misinterpreting statutes so that an unelected bureaucrat can essentially alter the underlying statute and apply a new criminal prohibition.”

In the end, it’s seems rare that Second Amendment supporters would ever get very interested in a court case involving unfair fees levied on herring fishermen. But in this case, people with many different interests that are being overregulated by unelected bureaucrats bent on making their own laws will be watching with interest in anticipation of the ruling.


About the Author

Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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