Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sig Sauer, Inc. v. Brandon

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 21, 2016

SIG SAUER, INC., Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
THOMAS E. BRANDON, Acting Director, United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Defendant, Appellee.

         APPEAL 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.

          Abby 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.

          Before Lynch, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         Sig 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.

         I.

         The NFA 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.

         ATF 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: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/atf-national-firearms-act-handbook-atf-p-53208/download; 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. § 7.2.4.1.

         In this 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.

         ATF 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.

         At that 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.[1] 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.

         On 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.

         Following 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.