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ATF usurped Congress with new "ghost" gun rule, says letter from Judiciary subcommittee Republicans

The congressional Republicans requested the ATF abandon the proposed rule.

Updated: August 10, 2021 - 5:14pm

Republicans on the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee sent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) a letter requesting the agency "abandon" a proposed gun rule that expands the definition of a firearm beyond what Congress intended.

The proposed ATF rule "is deeply flawed, beyond the scope of ATF's authority, contrary to years of previous ATF opinions, and harmful to millions of law-abiding American firearm owners," the letter reads.

On May 21, ATF published the proposed rule, the "Definition of 'Frame or Receiver' and Identification of Firearms," in the Federal Register, saying its purpose is "to provide new regulatory definitions of 'firearm frame or receiver' and 'frame or receiver' because the current regulations fail to capture the full meaning of those terms."

The rule would also impose more marking and recordkeeping requirements than necessary, the letter reads. 

"ATF's proposed rule goes well beyond the authority granted to the agency in any applicable federal statutes. The proposed rule would expand the definition of 'frame or receiver' to include any part of a firearm that can house even one mechanism of the firing process," the letter continues.

The ATF's expanded definition of a firearm is "beyond the intent of Congress in the proposed rule," the Congress members wrote.

"The ATF includes 'a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be assembled, completed, converted, or restored.' However, the [Gun Control Act of 1968] defines a firearm as: 'A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon...'"

The ATF rule "appears to be a deliberate attempt to usurp the authority of Congress," the letter reads. "In so doing, ATF has also unconstitutionally infringed on American citizens' fundamental Second Amendment rights and privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. We strongly urge ATF to abandon its proposed rule..."

The Congress members also requested information on how the expanded definition was created in the first place, and if the Department of Justice and Office of Management and Budget had "reviewed and approved" it.

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