District Judge Takes ATF To Task on Silencer Regs

Law Shield would like to notify our members that a federal judge recently took the BATFE to task for writing unclear and vague regulations regarding what devices can be classified as silencers.

The agency arbitrarily classified a new device as a firearm silencer without sufficient review or a decent explanation why, U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote in Innovator Enterprises, Inc. v. B. Todd Jones, a civil action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Jones is the director of BATFE.

“In any agency review case, a reviewing court is generally obligated to uphold a reasonable agency decision that is the product of a rational agency process. This is not a high bar. But in this case, ATF fails to clear it,” Judge Bates wrote in the decision.

According to Courthouse News Service, Innovator Enterprises Inc. brought the complaint as the creator of the “Stabilizer Brake,” a device that attaches to the muzzle of a rifle with the intent of substantially reducing the firearm recoil and redirecting noise away from the shooter toward the target, among other things.

On Aug. 2, 2012, Innovator asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives to provide a classification letter, designating the device as either a firearm muffler or firearm silencer.

Any device that is deemed to be a “firearm silencer,” defined under federal law as “any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm,” is subject to extensive taxation and registration requirements.

The ATF responded six weeks later, saying it determined that the Stabilizer Brake was indeed a silencer. Innovator sued the agency in the federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to overturn the agency’s determination.

Bates granted Innovator summary judgment on its claim under the Administrative Procedure Act, holding that the agency’s action must be set aside as arbitrary and capricious because of the agency’s failure to “articulate a satisfactory explanation” and “examine the relevant data” in classifying Innovator’s Stabilizer Brake as a “firearm silencer.”