Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined a 20-state coalition led by West Virginia and Arizona in arguing against the Biden administration’s proposed regulation of firearm parts. In addition to joining the coalition’s comment letter, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office filed a separate, but similar, comment letter.
The coalition’s comment letter can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2021-08-19-atf-comments.pdf?sfvrsn=ca8075ff_2
Missouri’s separate comment letter can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2021-8-19-ltr-lange.pdf?sfvrsn=70b90b8a_2
The attorneys general contend a proposed rule set forth by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) exceeds authority granted to the bureau under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The public comments, filed Thursday, give particular attention to the proposal’s expanded definition of a receiver, the already heavily regulated part of a firearm that houses its firing mechanism. The attorneys general argue the rule would grant ATF unconstitutionally unrestrained discretion over which parts are subject to the regulation. This would — as ATF admits — put many parts manufacturers out of business and significantly increase costs for others.
“By sidestepping Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has far exceeded its authority as a federal agency, attempting to regulate unfinished metal parts,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “This unconstitutional rule change infringes on Missourians and Americans’ rights to keep and bear arms and will likely put manufacturers and retailers out of business. It should be reversed immediately.”
The coalition argues that federal law only authorizes ATF to regulate complete firearms and complete receivers – not incomplete firearms or receivers (with the exception of machineguns).
The attorneys general also contend the rule is unconstitutional as it would sidestep Congress and unlawfully assert broad policymaking discretion for ATF – flexibility and authority not already granted to the bureau.
The coalition further argues that ATF did not fully consider the costs of changing a longstanding policy upon which many people and businesses rely. It cites the ATF’s own analysis in stating the rule would force at least 35 businesses to cease operation or significantly scale down their activities. The attorneys general, however, argue the bureau underestimates the financial loss contending it would far exceed the rule’s $1.1 million estimate.
The states note a shared duty for ensuring public safety and contend ATF efforts to resolve the coalition’s concern would be a first step toward developing policies that combat crime, while also respecting the Constitution.
Missouri joined the West Virginia- and Arizona-led comments with attorneys general in Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota.