Federal Judge Rules Millions Of NRA Members Exempt From ATF Pistol Brace Rule

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Friday, Apr 05, 2024 - 12:20 AM

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (Emphasis ours),

A federal judge has blocked the ATF from enforcing its pistol brace rule for millions of members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as the appeals process plays out.

Justin Barrett, owner of Barrett Outdoors in Durant, Oklahoma, displays an AK pistol with a pistol stabilizing brace. On the counter next to him is a similar brace for an AR15 pistol. (Michael Clements/The Epoch Times)

It came after the NRA filed a lawsuit against the ATF, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, arguing that the agency’s rule to reclassify the brace-equipped pistols as short-barreled rifles is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay sided with the gun rights group, arguing that the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already concluded that the ATF pistol-brace rule “fails the logical outgrowth test and violates” the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and is “unlawful” under the act.

The court, therefore, sees no reason why it should not consider this argument and APA claim in ruling on Plaintiff’s Motion,” the judge added. “To not do so would be exalt form over substance, particularly since the Fifth Circuit has already determined that this claim has a substantial likelihood of succeeding on the merits.”

The judge agreed with the NRA’s arguments that its members would be substantially harmed by the ATF rule, which was finalized in January 2023.

“Compliance with the Final Rule is not discretionary, and the NRA’s members face severe penalties for their failure to comply with the Final Rule,” Judge Lindsay wrote in the ruling last week. “Accordingly, both of the final requirements for injunctive relief are satisfied because the threatened injury to the NRA’s members outweighs the threatened harm to the Defendants, and enforcement of the Final Rule under the circumstances will not disserve the public interest.”

Pistol braces were first marketed in 2012 as a way of attaching a pistol to the shooter’s forearm, stabilizing it and making it easier to use for disabled people. However, many users found that the braces could also be placed against the shoulder, like the stock on a rifle.

The disputed ATF rule classifies some guns equipped with pistol braces as short-barrel rifles, based on several factors including their size and weight and the manufacturers’ marketing materials. Short-barrel rifles are subject to special registration, longer waiting periods for purchase, and higher taxes because officials have claimed they are potentially more dangerous than handguns.

“While firearms equipped with ‘stabilizing braces’ or other rearward attachments may be submitted to ATF for a new classification determination, a majority of the existing firearms equipped with a ‘stabilizing brace’ are likely to be classified as ‘rifles’ because they are configured for shoulder fire based on the factors described in this rule,” the ATF rule says.

Because the brace-equipped firearms will have a barrel fewer than 16 inches in length, they are “likely to be classified as short-barreled rifles” that are subject to the enhanced federal regulation, it adds.

In a 2–1 ruling last year, the Fifth Circuit found that the ATF finalized the rule without giving the public a meaningful chance to comment on it. That made it invalid under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, the panel found.

The court at the time did not immediately block enforcement of the rule, instead sending the case back to a lower court judge who found that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

“[T]he Court finds that the Government Defendants’ implementation and enforcement of the Final Rule substantially threatens to inflict irreparable constitutional harm upon the [Firearms Policy Coalition] members,” Judge Reed O’Connor wrote last year. “Absent injunctive relief, the Final Rule will impair and threaten to deprive them of their fundamental right to keep and bear commonly used arms as a means of achieving the inherently lawful ends of self-defense.”

Other than NRA members, the previous Fifth Circuit ruling allowed members of the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Gun Owners of America to not face ATF enforcement regarding the braces.

In a news release last week, the NRA, which has millions of members nationwide, said that Judge Lindsay’s order represents a big win for its members. It noted that members of the group who need to use a pistol brace will be shielded from potential ATF enforcement.

This is a major victory for the NRA, its members, and all who believe in Second Amendment freedom,” NRA President Charles Cotton said in the release. “From day one, we vowed to fight back against President Biden and his rogue regulators—and to defeat this unlawful measure.”

Under the rule, if a person is caught using a pistol brace that has not been registered, the weapon can be seized by federal officials and the owner could face a fine of $10,000 or prison time of up to 10 years, according to the ATF. The agency says gun owners must either remove the brace from the pistol, register it as a short-barreled rifle, remove the barrel and attach a longer one, forfeit the firearm at a local ATF office, or destroy it.

The ATF or the Department of Justice have not yet issued a response to the ruling.