B.L.U.F. When a conflict of understanding the language of a law which is enacted by a regulatory agency (EPA, ATF, and so on) a judge is required to accept the agencies “definitions”. This is why so many government agencies think they can get away with putting out regulations which are not based on law.

In February of 1984 the case was argued before the Supreme Court and in June of 1984 they issued their opinion.

The Clear Air Act Amendments of 1977 Congress required that States that had not achieved the national air quality standards established by the EPA to use a permitting program within the State.

The amended Clean Air Act required a permitting scheme whereby an new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution were required to get a permit. The permit was not to be issued unless several stringent conditions were met.

The EPA created regulations that said all sources within a single plant were to be considered as a whole. Not individually. They did this by defining what “stationary source” meant.

This upset the Natural Resources Defense Council so they filed suit. The case made its way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court issued their opinion saying, in short: The term “stationary source” as provided in the legislation is ambiguous. The subject matter experts in this is the government agency in charge of regulating “stationary sources” of pollution, the EPA.

Since the EPA is that agency, and because they are the subject matter experts, their definition of what “stationary source” means is the correct one. Moving forward, all inferior courts should give deference to the government agency anytime the definitions are not unambiguous.

This has lead to many cases being shot down long before they get anywhere. The EPA says “that’s a wetland”, the land owners say “it’s a f’ing mud puddle”, the courts say “The EPA says it is a wetland, it is a wetland.” The land owner says “But that’s why we are hear in court, there is a conflict as to the meaning of “wetlands” and we want the courts to clarify the meaning, that’s your job.”

On appeal, the circuit courts would say “Chevron says we must defer to the agency in these cases.”

This is what the ATF is depending on in their new rules regarding “frames and receivers”. The ATF is saying that because the term “frame or receiver” is ambiguous they get to set the definition. They are using Chevron as their legal standing to do so.

Unfortunately for them, the term frame or receiver is not ambiguous. We all know what one is. The ATF can issue a determination that a particular chunk-o-metal has reached the stage where it is a frame or receiver. They can’t say “This will become a frame or receiver and thus is a frame or receiver”.

The language precludes them from the definition they want to use. If something is “readily converted into a frame or receiver” it is by definition, NOT a frame or receiver. If it is not a frame or receiver then the ATF doesn’t get to regulate it.

Again, under Chevron the ATF says that a recursive definition, “It is a frame or receiver because it can readily become a frame or receiver” is a real definition. Using that definition, if an 80% lower is a receiver because it can readily become a receiver. Thus a raw forging is a receiver because it can readily become an 80% lower which is actually a receiver. Which of course leads to a chunk of aluminum bar stock is a receiver because it can readily become an 80% lower, which is actually a receiver.

Does this mean that a bunch of aluminum cans, about to be smelted down and reused is now a firearm? Those aluminum cans can readily be converted into bar stock which can readily be converted into an 60% raw billet receiver which can readily be converted into an 80% lower which can readily be converted into an actual receiver which can be turned into a firearm, readily.

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By awa

7 thoughts on “Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council”
  1. Typical gubmint thinking… way back in the early nineties I got a copy of the federal warrant the atf used for Waco.. it was chock full of “things” they were looking for- milling machines, metal lathes, tools that MAY be used to manufacture firearms OR convert semi autos to FULL auto.. nothing in it was illegal to own.. even the box of inert grenades that started the whole thing aint illegal to own.. thats what makes me laugh at the keyboard kommandos posting photos “looky what I got!”. Well hero, you MAY use that to commit a crime so “knock knock bang bang”.. dont be stupid..

  2. This is partially, I believe, why ATF declined to prosecute some cases involving felons in possession of AR-15 receivers or a handful of fellas with the fourth hole drilled due to it being an odd duck under their own definition.

    That and malicious use of “constructive intent” and we being our own worst enemy about gun laws gives them a distinct advantage.

  3. Using the same exact semantical logic, a serial mass murderer, who is an adult human being, came to be one because they were a teenager, who was a child, who was a fetus, which started as sperm and egg, which resulted via the act of sex. Therefore, all sexual activity is equal in essence to a serial mass murderer’s act of multiple murders. It’s reasonable because one does in fact lead to the other…eventually. And there are multiple case histories which prove this premise.

  4. They can’t say “This will become a frame or receiver and thus is a frame or receiver”.
    Well. they can say that… but will it stand up to any test of reasonableness? Not a chance. As you point out, a bar of aluminum can be defined as a receiver, the plastic for a 3D printer is a receiver, unrefined iron ore is a receiver, etc…
    Deference is almost always afforded to the regulating agency, but not without any reasonableness tests. And, since readily is not defined, any legal challenge is going to make it in front of a judge. Winning the case, that is another story altogether.

    1. That will teach me not to be loose with my language. You are absolutely correct, they can say that. Should they be allowed to say it?

      This is part of the point I’ve been trying to make. There is no legal standing in the GCA of 1968 that allows them to even apply the term “readily” to a thing that might become a frame or receiver. The law says that a thing is either a frame or receiver or it is not. No wiggle room.

      The law also says that a thing is a fire arm if it is “readily” converted into a firearm. Consider an object with a solid metal bar instead of a barrel. It is used for showing the inner workings of a the firearm it is modeled after. If it is possible to remove that solid metal bar and replace it with a real barrel, readily, then the thing is a firearm, for purposes of the GCA.

      Maybe a better example. Consider an M2 Browning Machine Gun. It has removable barrels. If you were to wield a plug inside the barrel you sure couldn’t fire anything out of it. It is not actually a firearm at that point in time from a functional point of view. Ignore the legal part where it has a receiver. But since the M2 has a “quick change” barrel, it means that it is only a few seconds to go from a non-functional display piece into a real fire arm.

      Or maybe a bit better, consider a “demilled” 1911 where they have removed the firing pin and replaced it with a piece of plastic. We all know it is still a firearm because it can readily be converted to expel a projectile by means of an explosive by replacing the firing pin.

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