St. Mary's Law Journal


Over the years Congress has enacted and amended several versions of the United States Code (U.S.C) § 925(c). Several reported cases illustrate the courts’ early efforts to develop a coherent body of jurisprudence with respect to the procedural and substantive aspects of U.S.C. § 925(c) judicial review. Specifically, the § 925(c) denials of relief by the Director before the congressional appropriations ban commenced in 1993. Although the methodology and reasoning behind these decisions differ in their details, several themes are discernable. First, even without the express provisions for judicial review added by the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA), courts consistently determined they had subject matter jurisdiction to review the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) § 925(c) denials of relief. Second, courts approached the task of reviewing BATF denials with substantial deference to the agency’s determinations. As a result of these deferential reviews, decisions routinely upheld the Director’s exercise of discretion. A substantial change came about after the congressional ban against the BATF’s use of appropriated funds to investigate or act upon applications for § 925 (c) relief. The focus of appeals shifted from administrative law questions governing the scope of judicial review to the subject matter jurisdiction of federal districts courts. The related question of the exhaustion of administrative remedies also became an important one during this shift. Following an overview of the relevant federal firearms statutes, this Article describes the legislative and decisional background related to the current provisions of Title 18, Chapter 44 of the U.S.C. at issue in U.S. v. Bean. It then examines the federal appellate decisions interpreting the effect of the BATF’s funding bans by Congress regarding § 925(c) relief requests.


St. Mary's University School of Law