Mountain States Makes New Move In Case That Could Redefine “Firearm”

Denver, CODecember 31, 2020 — A legal chess match is underway that could determine how the federal government defines “firearms” in the future. Mountain States Legal Foundation made its latest move in that chess match this week, by raising questions on behalf of its clients, as to whether the petitioners in California v. ATF have legitimate grounds for bringing their lawsuit in the first place.  

The defendants in the case, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”), are seeking to have the case dismissed, rightfully arguing that California and the anti-gun groups and individuals who brought the suit lack the legal standing required to challenge how ATF applies the definition of “firearms” under current rules. Though still awaiting word on its motion to intervene in the case, MSLF is seeking the Court’s leave to file a response to the federal government’s motion in order to ensure their clients’ legal arguments and interests are represented before the court, and to present additional points for the court to consider.  

The petitioners want the ATF to designate any rough parts or materials that can potentially be used to individually manufacture a personal use firearm to be defined as “firearms” under federal law—and thus subject to the wealth of federal and state firearm regulations. MSLF is seeking intervention on behalf of individuals whose Second Amendment protected rights—including the right to individually manufacture firearms without unconstitutional government interference—would be jeopardized by such an overbroad definition. MSLF is also seeking intervention on behalf of a producer of these objects—sometimes colloquially referred to as “receiver or frame blanks,” “partially-manufactured receivers or frames,” or “80% receivers or frames”  that can be personally manufactured into firearm components by individuals with the equipment and know-how to do so. It’s also representing the Firearms Policy Coalition, a firearms advocacy organization helping lead the charge against unconstitutional government overreach.  

MSLF in its proposed response largely agrees with the federal government’s case for dismissal, but makes additional points for the Court to consider. MSLF argues that one of the plaintiffs in particular, Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy organization, fails to meet the test to establish standing because it is a non- membership organization that does not and cannot represent the public interest and is not directly or adversely impacted by how the ATF draws the distinction between actual firearms and “non-firearm objects.”.  

MSLF also points out that Petitioners’ contention that the ATF’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” is undercut by their own complaint.  In arguing the ATF “failed to consider an important aspect” or the alleged problem, the parties admit in their complaint several instances where the ATF considered exactly what petitioners charge the agency didn’t. 

“California and Giffords are seeking to impose their view on the entirety of the nation and to force the federal government to take control of a matter it has no authority or power to regulate,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, Director of MSLF’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms.  “Our clients are merely seeking to point out to the Court that Giffords does not, and cannot, represent the public interest in this case and that at least one claim they advance is self-defeating.” 

Follow this link to read the filing.  

Follow this link to read the case summary.