The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of the preliminary injunction awarded to Defense Distributed and Blackhawk Manufacturing (d.b.a 80% Arms) in VanDerStok v. Garland.
After Judge Reed O’Conner vacated the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) final rule on frames and receivers (ATF Final Rule 2021R-05F), the Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit upheld Judge O’Connor’s decision. After failing at the Circuit Court level, the DOJ would petition the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to step in and block the court order. SCOTUS would stay Judge O’Connor’s decision to vacate the rule until the high court can decide whether to take up the case.
Defense Distributed and 80% Arms would ask Judge O’Connor for another injunction, which he would grant for the two companies and their customers. The government would appeal to the Fifth Circuit, claiming that the SCOTUS-issued stay covered the injunctions, meaning no injunction.
The Fifth Circuit flat-out rejected the government’s claim. They say that the SCOTUS decision binds the lower courts, but they do not believe SCOTUS forbade the courts from issuing injunctions. They think that the SCOTUS stay only applies to the rule from being vacated. The order reads:
“But we disagree with the Government that the district court’s injunction as to two plaintiff-party manufacturers ‘directly conflicts with the Supreme Court’s determination that the [G]overnment should be permitted to enforce the Rule as to everyone while this appeal proceeds.’”
The Fifth Circuit did agree that Judge O’Connor’s injunction went too far. The judges said that the injunction should only apply to the two named companies and does not extend to the customers because the ATF has already, on the record, agreed not to take any enforcement action against customers. That means the customers do not have standing because they are not under threat of any actions by the ATF for buying products. The decision reads:
“That is particularly true because the Government has been adamant—in both writing and at oral argument on this motion—that it will not enforce the Final Rule against customers who purchase regulated “frames or receivers” and who are otherwise lawfully entitled to purchase firearms.”
The order is unclear, but many legal minds believe that until other injunctions come down from the courts, the only companies that can legally sell unfinished frames and receivers are Defense Distributed and 80% Arms. Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed also believes this interpretation to be accurate.
“These are the kinds of accidents integral to Executive and agency overreach in the federal court,” Wilson told AmmoLand News. “Should have stayed out of the People’s business. Now, the most dedicated companies in the industry are handed a commercial monopoly for R&D.”
This injunction is the first injunction ruled on by the courts, but it will not be the last that the courts tackle. The ruling by Judge O’Connor and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sends a message to the ATF that they are on a losing path. The only hope to save the rule is the Supreme Court, but even that is a long shot.
About John Crump