Loper Bright Case: A Turning Point for Firearm Regulation?

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As the Supreme Court prepares to review Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, a case challenging the Chevron doctrine, its decision could have unforeseen consequences on various aspects of federal regulation, including those governing firearms and related components like bump stocks.

The Chevron doctrine, a pivotal element of administrative law, permits federal agencies to interpret ambiguous statutes within their purview. This deference has shaped countless regulatory landscapes, including the regulation of firearms.

While Loper Bright primarily concerns the National Marine Fisheries Service’s regulations, its implications extend beyond environmental law. A decision altering or overturning Chevron could lead to a reevaluation of how agencies, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), interpret laws related to firearms.

Significant ATF rulings, including those on bump stocks and other firearm components, have relied on the agency’s interpretation of ambiguous laws. If the Supreme Court limits or overturns Chevron deference, it could prompt a reassessment of these interpretations. This might lead to more direct judicial involvement in defining what constitutes a firearm or a firearm component under the law, potentially impacting regulations on items like bump stocks.

Justice Clarence Thomas, known for his skepticism of the Chevron doctrine, has argued that it conflicts with constitutional principles. His perspective suggests a preference for a more literal and strict interpretation of statutes, which could influence how laws governing firearms and accessories are applied.

If the Supreme Court decides to restrict or overturn Chevron, it could lead to more rigorous judicial scrutiny of ATF regulations. This might result in a narrower interpretation of firearm-related laws, potentially affecting existing regulations on bump stocks and other components. Conversely, retaining Chevron could maintain the status quo, where agency interpretations play a significant role in defining regulatory boundaries.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Loper Bright could mark a pivotal moment in administrative law, with potential ripple effects on firearm regulations. This case underscores the complex interplay between judicial interpretation, administrative agencies, and the regulation of firearms in the United States.

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