A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Biden administration does not have the power to outlaw so-called "ghost guns," The Hill reported. This decision upheld a lower court's ruling that found the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not have the authority to restrict such weapons.
President Joe Biden's ATF had attempted to outlaw the do-it-yourself guns that often evade government checks and balances. The ATF's crackdown on these untraceable weapons included the shocking leap of classifying kits and gun parts as weapons.
The ATF sees these guns as a threat as their numbers increase. According to officials, there are as many as 20,000 of these weapons circulating, which is ten times as many as there were in 2016.
The courts have disagreed that they're problematic enough that such a sweeping rule from the ATF is necessary, however. In a unanimous decision, Judge Kurt Engelhardt in the Fifth Circuit struck down the rule.
"The agency rule at issue here flouts clear statutory text and exceeds the legislatively-imposed limits on agency authority in the name of public policy," Englehardt wrote in his opinion. The judge chastised the ATF for making the rule in a hasty effort to respond to instances of gun violence.
"ATF, in promulgating its Final Rule, attempted to take on the mantle of Congress to 'do something' with respect to gun control. But it is not the province of an executive agency to write laws for our nation," the judge pointed out.
"That vital duty, for better or for worse, lies solely with the legislature," Engelhardt added. The matter is now expected to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the ATF prohibition will remain in place as it is litigated.
Judge Andrew Oldham warned in a concurring opinion that the ATF could have "limitless" power to outlaw weapons if the rule is allowed to stand. "It purports to regulate any piece of metal or plastic that has been machined beyond its primordial state for fear that it might one day be turned into a gun, a gun frame, or a gun receiver," Oldham said.
"And it doesn't stop regulating the metal or plastic until it's melted back down to ooze," he added. This is not far off, considering how Biden spoke about the rule in a hypothetical example.
After dealers and firearm makers in Texas challenged it, Biden called the rule a necessary move for public safety. His rationale speaks to the dangerous way the rule can be interpreted.
"If you buy a couch you have to assemble, it's still a couch. If you order a package like this one over here that includes the parts you need the directions of assembling a functioning firearm, you bought a gun. Take a look," Biden claimed about a ghost gun kit before him.
"Anyone can order it in the mail. Anyone," Biden warned. "Folks, a felon, a terrorist, a domestic abuser, can go from a gun kit to a gun in as little as 30 minutes," he added.
There's indeed no reason to put weapons into the hands of violent people, but this isn't about stopping violent people. If it were, Democrats like Biden would also be in favor of stiffer penalties for criminals and more police officers on the streets.
Instead, this is closing as many avenues to the free exercise of the Second Amendment as they can get away with. Outlawing anything that can be considered a piece of a weapon is a dangerous precedent to limiting constitutional freedoms, which is precisely why Biden's ATF did it.