The court case between an oil company, Chevron, and a federal agency expanding interpretations of the Clean Air Act would impact every other area of federal administrative law, including agencies that might work to limit gun rights in America.
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Much of the coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the Chevron Deference doctrine suffers from one of two problems: Either it’s written by lawyers for lawyers and is therefore unintelligible for anyone without a juris doctor, or it’s written by the corporate media and is chock-full of errors, omissions and untruths. TTAG broke it down pretty well for gun owners when reporting the decision on June 28, but here’s a deeper look at how the decision may affect the gun crowd from a Q&A with a 2A lawyer.

Bill Sack, director of legal operations for the Second Amendment Foundation, agreed to help clarify this landmark Supreme Court decision, which it turns out is good for gun owners and bad for the ATF.

Q: What is the Chevron Deference doctrine?

A: “By a vote of 6-3, the justices overruled their landmark 1984 decision in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., which gave rise to the doctrine known as Chevron Deference. Under that doctrine, if Congress has not directly addressed the question at the center of a dispute, a court was required to uphold the agency’s interpretation of the statute as long as it was reasonable.

What the Chevron Deference doctrine did was when administrative agencies write regulations, they often will have their own administrative courts that interpret the regulations the agency has drawn up. For example, if the EPA makes a regulation that says a factory can only put out so much pollution, and there is a question as to whether a specific factory violated the regulation, the first place the factory has to go is the EPA’s administrative court, where an EPA administrative judge will interpret the EPA’s regulations. If the factory is unsatisfied with the EPA judge’s decision, they can appeal to federal court. What Chevron Deference did was this: If the administrative court’s decision was appealed, the federal court was then supposed to be heavily deferential to the findings of that administrative court.

Basically, the doctrine put a thumb on the scale in favor of the administrative agency.

The federal court was supposed to give a lot of deference to what the administrative agency found. From a liberty perspective, this is a separation of powers problem. The administrative agency, as an executive agency, is supposed to enforce the law. It’s not supposed to write the law. It’s not supposed to interpret the law. These alphabet agencies were writing regulations, which is a legislative function. They were enforcing the regulations, an executive function, and then they were interpreting the regulations, which is a judicial function.

The ATF and the alphabet agencies were doing the jobs of all three branches of government and if challenged, the federal courts were supposed to defer to what their administrative courts found. Even if the federal court thought the agency’s administrative court got it wrong, they didn’t always overrule the decision. They believed that these agencies were the experts, who were best at administering and interpreting the own regulations. For example, the courts acted like since the EPA found that the EPA did nothing wrong, we’ll defer to them since they’re the experts.”

Q: What specifically did the U.S. Supreme Court decide?

A: “Chevron was overturned formally based on the Administrative Procedures Act, which sets out the procedures that federal agencies must follow as well as instructions for the courts to review actions by those agencies. The Supreme Court decided that this deference was unlawful. The Supreme Court said federal courts should start from scratch, rather than showing deference to the alphabet agencies. The High Court removed their thumb from the scale.”

Q: How will this decision affect the ATF?

A: “Hopefully, it tones down all of the administrative agencies because it returns power to the judiciary. It should tone down the ATF just like the rest. They can no longer adjudicate their own rules and say, ‘we’re right because we said we’re right.’

The writing has been on the wall for some time that Chevron would get knocked down. In a few of the (Administrative Procedure Act) challenges, the ATF has said they are not relying on Chevron to make their point. I suspect they didn’t want to hang their hat on Chevron. During the pistol brace and bump-stock cases, the ATF specifically said they were not relying on Chevron Deference.

If Chevron Deference were still alive, the ATF could write a rule like pistol braces. If someone was prosecuted for it and believed they shouldn’t have been found guilty in an ATF court, the ATF could rely on Chevron Deference during the appeal.

It was a big tool that every administrative agency had in their quiver.”

Q: How will the Supreme Court’s decision affect cases already in litigation, such as bump-stocks, pistol braces, frame and receiver and who needs an FFL?

A: “I don’t believe it will affect any of the current cases against ATF because the ATF has already disclaimed using Chevron.”

Q: Will this decision have any impact on the hundreds of gun dealers who have had their Federal Firearm Licenses revoked by the ATF for minor clerical reasons? (This question was posed to Adam Kraut, the Second Amendment Foundation’s executive director.)

A: “No. Revocation is entirely within the administrative process. The ATF only has to show a single willful violation. It’s not ambiguous where it would be difficult to ascertain what Congress meant. The courts have defined what willful is – they did something the law said they can’t do. Whether it was intentional, or they transposed some numbers, it’s still willful. There’s no deference in that regard. They don’t have to defer to the ATF to interpret anything,” Kraut said.

Q: Do gun owners still need to go through the ATF’s administrative process or can they now go straight to federal court?

A: “They still have administrative courts. They will still adjudicate violations of their own regulations, but if you want to appeal, the federal court has much greater leeway to overturn the administrative agencies with Chevron gone. The courts should be much better equipped to keep the administrative state in check,” Sack said.

Q: How will the Supreme Court’s decision affect gun owners?

A: “Big picture – for ATF and all of the other administrative agencies – it will hold their feet to the fire to interpret their own regulations fairly.”

This story is brought to you courtesy of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the project.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not a “separation of powers problem, it’s a Title of Nobility Problem, a Bill of Attainder Problem, and often times they apply their regulations Ex Post Facto!” Even the EPA says they brought A,B or C into ATTAINMENT. That’s all you need to know, but throw in that whole “Life, Liberty, or Pursuit of happiness, and it’s not hard to see the UnConstitutional nature of it. BTW it started with the 1942 case “Wickard V. Filburn.”

  2. Q: How will the Supreme Court’s decision affect gun owners?

    A: “Big picture – for ATF and all of the other administrative agencies – it will hold their feet to the fire to interpret their own regulations fairly.”

    Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!

    (Still gasping for air after laughing so hard.)

    Administrative agencies will continue to do whatever they want–including what they have been doing–unabated. All this recent U.S. Supreme Court decision does is provide a possible avenue for a few extremely well funded entities to eventually prevail in some federal court several years later. Meanwhile no bureaucrat in any administrative agency will suffer any personal sanctions for willfully violating the U.S. Constitution and law.

    • Whatever! We’ll still be effed in ILLANNOY. Enjoy whatever freedom you can. I foresee ‘Merica going down the tubes. Prepare accordingly & stay strapped.🙄

      • It means absolutely nothing if “We the People” continue to allow democrats to ignore the Constitution. Which they will continue to do by passing anti 2A legislation that requires a fight in the courts to have it overturned. They have historically played the long game on their disdain of the 2nd Amendment and this ruling will do nothing to stop it. Tyranny cannot be defeated in or by a Court. It requires the blood of tyrants and patriots to remove it from society and the continent. As was done by the founding patriots.

    • That’s what I was thinking, only those with deep pockets will benefit from this and that benefit will be that the 3 letter agencies will back off so the courts won’t overturn their rules. The rest of us are still screwed.

  3. “A: “Hopefully, it tones down all of the administrative agencies”
    I would not count on that………..yet, and there most likely will be subtle violations continuing.
    Too many for too long have been allowed to do as they please and “we the people” be damned.

  4. If the court can toss Chevron then the court can damn sure toss the 1968 Gun Control Act that to this day has been a green light to screw The Second Amendment. Gun Control an agenda Rooted in Racism and Genocide was given a Bold Listing in America’s Congressional lawbooks. And demented Gun Control zealots enjoy dangling the act in the face of a Constitutional Right. Until the Gun Control History illiterate public views Gun Control by its Roots in Racism and Genocide it will be business like this…

    • Gun Control an agenda Rooted in Racism and Genocide …”

      No, gun control and genocide are rooted in the superiority complexes of evil elitists who aspire to use, abuse, exploit, and consume their disfavored demographic according to any defining characteristic they choose. Race is a just one of many possible defining characteristics such as age, location, poverty, autonomy, and even familial lineage.

      Of course using, abusing, exploiting, and consuming your disfavored demographic is easiest when the disfavored demographic is weak. Hence said elitists set out to weaken their disfavored demographics to the maximum extent possible, which necessarily includes disarming them.

      Make no mistake: elitism is the root problem and is a tragic component of the human condition throughout all recorded history. It will never go away. Pointing at it (calling attention to any one particular example in world history) will not slow it down. Strength–which necessarily requires being armed–is the only thing that will slow it down.

      Queue Debbie’s elitist rants, including insults such as “blowbags”, in 3 … 2 … 1 …

      • I can’t find it, but someone recently nicknamed her ” Our own Grelber ” (lives in a mailbox stenciled ” free insults”)… anyone else here remember Broom Hilda ?

    • I DID get Chevron gas the other day! It sure wasn’t.31 a gallon. BTW I got 27.9 gas in 1973 just before the arab oil “embargo”🙄

      • …. countdown to Minor Irritation telling you ” That’s not the bargain you think it is. Adjusted for 1,462% inflation you’d be paying over $4 a gallon for it today. ”
        … in 3, 2, 1
        Adjusted for Inflation, his 2 cents worth is now valued at
        – – – still nothing !
        still nothing !!

          • The likelihood of their lies being damned never stops leftists from sounding off. I know we all know that, but I just had to get it in the record.

          • Remember how high it got while Obama was in office? It’d be like that again if they weren’t hiding their terrible policies by blowing through the strategic reserve. The Puppet is stealing a massive campaign contribution from the American taxpayer.

  5. Well thats a buncha doody that should’ve never been entertained in the first place. Shouldnt the whole idea of court be not to show some kind of preconceived “deference” to either side? Just sounds like the fair way to go about things.

  6. I dont think this will make any difference on gunms.
    Why? because,
    The Right To Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.
    and look how well that’s worked out.
    When Courts protect the Constitution and not We The People.

  7. These “…agencies were writing regulations, which is a legislative function. They were enforcing the regulations, an executive function, and then they were interpreting the regulations, which is a judicial function.” all by /unelected bureaucrats/!

    There is nothing more unconstitutional and a complete repudiation of the proper role of a just government in the securing of the rights of life, liberty, and happiness.

    Biden/Harris 2024 (i.e. the easiest way to get Trump back into office)

  8. “unintelligible for anyone without a juris doctor” – total BS. Average shyster could have easilet majored in ____- American studies or other prog Studies in College BA. Low bar compared toa REAL major. Then borrow/throw tens of thousands to get the useless lawyer degree which has terrible employment prospects.

  9. These ‘agencies’ spent/budgeted millions of dollars annually to do nothing but their own made-up interpretations and rules to keep their own ‘courts’ going to ‘prosecute’ cases for violations of their own contrived rules and to contrive enforcement of their contrived rules. It was a self-feeding and self-fueling ‘mechanism’ that kept the ‘agency’ in ‘power’ as basically the ‘4th branch of government’ that was not accountable to the American people and could be wielded as a ‘weapon’ against the American people by the ‘agency’ its self or the President.

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