The legal challenges to President Biden’s first major gun-control effort are starting to pile up.
Seventeen state attorneys general, spearheaded by Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich (R.), filed a new lawsuit against the Biden administration in federal court on Wednesday. The suit seeks to block the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from enforcing a newly finalized rule that aims to crack down on “ghost gun” kits—unfinished gun parts paired with the tools to finish them.
“The ATF is attempting to overshoot the authority granted to it by Congress,” Brnovich said in a press release. “The rulemakings are unconstitutional, impractical, and would likely put a large number of parts manufacturers out of business.”
The new suit is just the latest in a series of challenges seeking to block the controversial rule from taking effect on August 24. Gun Owners of America (GOA) launched its own suit challenging the rule’s legality earlier this month. It filed a motion to block the law from taking effect as part of those proceedings on Monday.
Those challenges, if successful, would strike a significant blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to unilaterally enact new gun restrictions. Though he has since had modest victories due to the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, his executive orders calling for ATF regulations were among the first and most significant steps taken on guns during his presidency. With public opinion of his gun policy already underwater, the loss of his primary executive achievement on guns could be a significant political setback.
The rule in question expands the ATF’s authority in several ways in an attempt to crack down on unserialized and unfinished firearm components. Attorney General Merrick Garland finalized and signed the rule in April.
It will amend the definition of a “firearm” under federal law to include unfinished receivers or frames when sold in kits alongside jigs for homemade gun-making. The unfinished receivers and frames would remain legal to buy and sell outside of kits. It would also remain legal for anyone who is not prohibited from owning guns to make their own for personal use.
The rule also requires federally licensed gun dealers to retain background-check records for as long as they remain in business. Previous regulations only required dealers to hold on to the documents for 20 years. It would also require that dealers serialize all privately made firearms in their inventory.
The lawsuit argues that these new requirements could be burdensome enough to put certain gun dealers or unfinished-parts makers out of business.
“If allowed to go into effect, the Final Rule will cause significant harm to, or even result in the closure of, numerous businesses that manufacture, distribute, and sell unfinished and unregulated firearm parts, including unfinished firearm parts kits,” the complaint reads.
It also suggests that the rule represents an unconstitutional exercise of legislative authority by an executive agency.
“The Final Rule unconstitutionally subverts Congress’s authority, exercising quintessentially legislative powers in a manner that could never pass either (let alone both) Houses of Congress today – which is precisely why Defendants have no intent whatsoever to ask for legislative authorization to take such unprecedented actions,” the suit reads.
Attorneys general of West Virginia, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming joined the suit alongside Brnovich. The plaintiffs requested that the judge declare the final rule unconstitutional and issue an injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing it.
The ATF declined to comment on ongoing litigation.