Supreme Court Issues Emergency Order

The Biden administration’s rule governing so-called “ghost guns” that can be constructed at home was blocked by a lower court order, but on October 6 the Supreme Court overturned that decision, allowing the policy to stay in effect until October 16.

In an emergency application in the case of Garland v. Blackhawk Manufacturing Group Inc., Justice Samuel Alito issued a new ruling late on October 6 (court file 23A302). The application was submitted by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on behalf of the Biden administration.

Administrative stay of the lower court order is in effect until October 16 at 5 p.m.

Gun control supporters derogatorily refer to handmade firearms without serial numbers as “ghost guns” because they are impossible for law authorities to trace. Gun control organizations have been attempting for years to get the U.S. Congress to act to prohibit or regulate handmade firearms at the federal level, despite the fact that certain states already regulate them.

According to President Joe Biden, the “weapons of choice for many criminals” are custom-made firearms, which are frequently constructed using gun kits.

The “frame or receiver” rule was established by the government in April 2022. It mandates that serial numbers be added to handguns assembled by amateurs. Customers who purchase gun assembly kits from dealers are also required by law to submit to background checks.

The government contends that even weapons that are shipped are still considered weapons for the purposes of current legislation.

The regulation was deemed to be in violation of the law, and on July 5, U.S. Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued an injunction.
Judge O’Connor concluded that by regulating “partially manufactured firearm components, related firearm products, and other tools and materials,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), had exceeded its statutory authority.

At the time, the judge concluded that the rule “is unlawful agency action.”

The government requested a stay of the lower court’s order to stop the rule, but the 5th Circuit refused the motion on July 24. The reason given was that the ATF had not shown that there would be irreparable injury in the event of a stay or a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.

The matter was brought before the Supreme Court on August 8, when a 5-4 vote on the court upheld the government’s regulation of ghost firearms while the 5th Circuit reviewed the injunction.

Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas—four conservative justices—dissented from the ruling.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, two conservatives, voted with the three liberal justices on the court—Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson—to keep the rule in place in the interim.

The highest court in the country did not rule out the prospect of accepting a petition for certiorari, or review, of the case in the future. This would enable the court to set a date for the case’s oral arguments. Certiorari cannot be granted unless at least four of the nine justices vote in favor of it.

Next, on September 14, Judge O’Connor issued an order limiting the scope of his injunction to protect Defense Distributed and 80 Percent Arms, two businesses embroiled in the legal dispute, as well as their clients.
Before the 5th Circuit, the DOJ claimed that the district court was disobeying the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In a decision released on October 2, the 5th Circuit expressed its disagreement with the DOJ’s argument.

“There is a meaningful distinction between vacatur (which is a universal remedy) and an injunction that applies only to two named plaintiffs (which is a traditional equitable remedy),” according to the circuit court judges.

At the same time, the circuit court found that the injunction “sweeps too broadly.”

“Injunctions that afford relief to non-parties are potentially problematic. And it appears the district court’s injunction sweeps too broadly insofar as it affords relief to non-party customers.”

Nevertheless, the court found, “The party-plaintiff manufacturers would be irreparably harmed by being forced to shut down their companies or by being arrested pending judicial review of the Final Rule.”

The Biden administration’s promises 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” are the reason the court said it vacated the injunction as it applied to gun kit customers.

Additionally, the circuit court recommended that Judge O’Connor review the case and expand the scope of his injunction in the event that the administration fails to uphold its pledge not to discriminate against consumers.

“Of course, if circumstances change, the district court is free to narrowly tailor injunctive relief to meet the changed circumstances,” the 5th Circuit stated.

“But as things stand today, the Government is correct that the injunction cannot extend to non-party customers.”

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit against the rule are “likely to succeed on the merits because the Final Rule is contrary to law,” the circuit court continued.

Judge O’Connor’s injunction from September 14 is blocked by the latest Supreme Court ruling.

According to the decision, gun part makers who are opposing the rule have until October 11 at 5 p.m. to submit their arguments to the court for consideration before it takes any action on October 16—the day the temporary stay expires.

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