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Preliminary Injunction Issued Against ATF’s ‘Partial Frame’ Rule

Graham Perdue
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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive’s (ATF) partial frame rule is on hold. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction Thursday against the designation of partially completed pistol frames as “firearms.”

The objects are commonly referred to as “80% frames” and are regulated under ATF Final Rule 2021-05F.

The rule applied to pistol frames, including those sold in parts kits, that are at a stage in the manufacturing process where they “may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to a functional frame.” 


The ATF said the “readily” definition applies to any partially complete frame or receiver, whether sold alone or as part of a kit. By this designation, many partially completed pistol frames are categorized as both “frames” and “firearms.”

Therefore they fall under ATF regulations for weapons, even in their incomplete state.

The action by Judge O’Connor followed his ruling last September in VanDerStok v. Garland. In that case, the judge issued a partial injunction in favor of the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) in its challenge to new ATF policies creating different terms and regulations.

O’Connor said in his order that “the definition of ‘firearm’ in the Gun Control Act does not cover all firearm parts.” Rather, he ruled it “covers specifically the frame or receiver of any such weapon that Congress defined as a firearm.”


Last year’s decision gave the plaintiffs more time to present further briefing and evidence to the court. FPC Senior Attorney for Constitutional Litigation Cody J. Wisniewski said at the time that the group anticipated presenting additional arguments over the “deep flaws” in the ATF’s rule.

The latest ruling was in the suit brought by the Second Amendment Foundation on behalf of Defense Distributed. The plaintiffs sought both a preliminary injunction and injunctive relief but only received the injunction.

O’Connor wrote that Defense Distributed was entitled to the preliminary injunction. His action meant that the ATF and “their officers, agents, servants, and employees” are prohibited from enforcing the disputed gun parts rule against Defense Distributed.

The Second Amendment case is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

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