FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW
HAMPSHIRE [Hon. Paul J. Barbadoro, U.S. District Judge]
Stephen P. Halbrook, with whom Mark C. Rouvalis and Kenton J.
Villano were on brief, for Appellant.
C. Wright, Attorney, Appellate Staff, Civil Division, U.S.
Department of Justice, with whom Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Donald Feith, United
States Attorney, and Michael S. Raab, Attorney, Appellate
Staff, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, were on
brief, for Appellee.
Lynch, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BARRON, Circuit Judge.
Sauer, Inc., is a gun manufacturer headquartered in New
Hampshire. In this appeal, Sig Sauer challenges the District
Court's decision to uphold a ruling by the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF")
that a gun Sig Sauer seeks to market includes a
"silencer" under the National Firearms Act (the
"NFA"). 26 U.S.C. §§ 5801 et
seq. We affirm.
subjects "firearms" to various taxes and regulatory
requirements, including that the firearm be registered with
ATF. Id. §§ 5811, 5821, 5822, 5841, 5842.
The NFA defines a "firearm" to include certain guns
and gun parts, including "silencers." 18 U.S.C.
§ 921. And the NFA defines a "silencer, " to
include not only "any device for silencing, muffling, or
diminishing the report of a portable firearm, " but
also, and of particular relevance here, "any part
intended only for use in" "assembling or
fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler."
Id. § 921(a)(24); 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(7)
(emphasis added). Failure to comply with the NFA's
regulatory requirements can result in serious criminal
penalties. 26 U.S.C. § 5871.
permits -- but does not require -- gun makers to seek
classification letters from ATF prior to manufacturing a gun.
See Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives, National Firearms Act Handbook §
7.2.4 (2009), available at:
see also Innovator Enters., Inc. v.
Jones, 28 F.Supp. 3d 14, 18-19, 19 n.2 (D.D.C.
2014). A classification letter sets forth "the
agency's official position concerning the status of the
firearms under Federal firearms laws." Id.
case, Sig Sauer sought a classification letter from ATF
regarding a part of a gun that it planned to manufacture. Sig
Sauer noted that ATF might deem the part at issue to be a
silencer under the NFA on the ground that it was
"intended only for use" in assembling or
fabricating a silencer. Sig Sauer contended, however, that
the part was not intended only for such a use as it was also
intended for use as a muzzle brake. A muzzle brake is a
device that is added to a gun to reduce recoil (the backwards
force that results from firing the gun) and rise (the
tendency of the barrel to move upwards when the gun is
fired). See Vais Arms, Inc. v.
Vais, 383 F.3d 287, 288 n.1 (5th Cir. 2004). On the
basis of its argument that the part was intended for use as a
muzzle brake, Sig Sauer argued to ATF that the part did not
qualify as a silencer under the "intended only for
use" prong of the NFA's definition of a silencer.
disagreed and issued a classification letter that designated
the part to be "intended only for use" in
assembling or fabricating a silencer. Sig Sauer then asked
ATF to reconsider its classification. ATF again determined,
however, that the part was a silencer under the
"intended only for use" prong of the NFA's
definition of a silencer.
point, Sig Sauer challenged ATF's classification of the
part as a silencer by filing suit in the District of New
Hampshire under the Administrative Procedure Act (the
"APA"). 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et
seq. The parties then jointly moved to stay the
proceedings so that ATF could reconsider the part's
classification. ATF agreed to accept "additional
documents or information" in reconsidering its prior
ruling. ATF also agreed that, in the event that it affirmed
its prior ruling on remand, it would consider
"additional information and documentation" if Sig
Sauer chose to make such a submission before the case
returned to the District Court.
remand, ATF affirmed its decision yet again. Sig Sauer then
submitted, among other materials, affidavits that stated that
it intended the part at issue to lengthen the gun's
barrel to 16 inches so that the gun would not be subject to
the NFA on the basis of its length, as rifles that are
shorter than 16 inches are for that reason alone subject to
the NFA. See 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(3). Sig Sauer
thus contended that because it intended the part to make the
gun sufficiently long that it would not be subject to the NFA
on the basis of its length, the part was, for this reason,
too, not "intended only for use" in assembling or
fabricating a silencer. ATF declined, however, to change its
classification of the part.
ATF's decision on remand, the litigation resumed in
district court, where the parties cross-moved for summary
judgment. After a hearing, the District Court granted
ATF's motion for summary judgment and denied Sig
Sauer's. Sig Sauer, Inc.v.Jones, 133 ...