With gun ban bills pending in several states, the ATF set to finalize new rules for pistol stabilizing braces (not to mention changing their interpretation of their new regulations on unfinished frames and receivers), and blue state governors encouraging junk lawsuits against gun makers, the firearms industry faces a host of challenges this year even as the number of new gun owners continues to grow. The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s senior vice president and general counsel Larry Keane joins Cam & Co today for a wide-ranging discussion about the coming threats to gun owners and the firearms industry in 2023, as well as how the industry plans to respond.
Keane notes that Congress is likely to see gridlock when it comes to any gun-related legislation, both good and bad for gun owners. The Democrat-controlled Senate may try to advance anti-gun bills but they’re not likely to get a hearing in the (theoretically, anyway) GOP-controlled House, while the same holds true for any pro-2A measure approved by House members. Still Keane says that the oversight the House will hopefully provide to the Department of Justice, ATF, FBI, and even the CDC will be helpful, though he also knows that the Biden administration is going to continue treating the firearms industry as an adversary.
“Even Interior and Fish & Wildlife, we’re concerned with the administration’s anti-traditional ammunition view,” Keane explained. “They want to ban the use of traditional ammunition and they’re taking steps to implement those policies, so we have to try to stop that and protect traditional ammunition because those policies are not based on science. It’s based on caving to pressure from anti-hunting groups and radical environmental groups like the Center for Biodiversity.”
Speaking of caving to pressure from outside groups, Keane also expressed concern over the ATF’s sudden re-reading of its own rules regarding so-called ghost guns. When the new rules for unfinished frames and receivers were first published, the agency declared that the new rules only required serializing 80% completed frames and receivers sold as part of a gun-making kit, while those sold by themselves did not require serialization. Last month, however, after pressure from gun control groups, the ATF declared that actually the new rule does apply to all 80% frames and receivers; a decision that Keane says demonstrates the politicizing of gun policy under Biden.
“The rule doesn’t ban 80% receivers. They can’t ban something that is not yet a frame or receiver because the statute defines ‘firearms’ as a) weapons or readily convertible to a weapon or b) frame or receiver,” Keane detailed. “It doesn’t say ‘frame or receiver or readily convertible to a frame or receiver’, and that’s the false basis of the entire rule. It’s built on a house of cards.”
The rule and its changing interpretations are currently the subject of legal action, and Keane expects that the NSSF is going to be extremely busy in courts across the country this year challenging new and old gun laws alike, including potential litigation in Illinois and Washington if Democrats in those states are able to muster the votes for a ban on modern sporting rifles. Keane also announced that the organization will be playing a major role in challenging Rhode Island’s recently enacted ban on “large capacity” magazines, which requires existing owners to either dispose of them, permanently modify them to hold no more than ten rounds, or remove them from the state. Former Solicitor General Paul Clement and his law partner Erin Murphy, who successfully argued to overturn New York’s “may issue” carry laws in NYSRPA v. Bruen will now be handling the case going forward, starting with an appeal of a U.S. District Judge’s decision to allow the Rhode Island ban to be fully enforced.
Be sure to check out the entire interview with Larry Keane below, which also touches on the “public nuisance” statutes crafted by anti-gun governors to encourage lawsuits against the industry, Maryland’s “assault weapons” ban and the potential for SCOTUS review, and why he’s somewhat skeptical about the idea of the ATF trying to enact a gun ban through re-defining “machine gun.” It was a great conversation, and I’m looking forward to continuing it in the very near future.