Federal Judge Blocks ATF’s Enforcement of Pistol-Brace Ban

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
November 9, 2023Courts
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Federal Judge Blocks ATF’s Enforcement of Pistol-Brace Ban
A MCK pistol brace for a handgun is displayed with firearm accessories for sale at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif., on June 5, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

A U.S. district judge on Wednesday ruled against a federal pistol brace ban, saying federal officials overstepped their authority when crafting the rule.

“The Court is certainly sympathetic to ATF’s concerns over public safety in the wake of tragic mass shootings. The Rule ’embodies salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society,'” Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk wrote in his order.

In ruling against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), he added: “Public safety concerns must be addressed in ways that are lawful. This Rule is not.” The order applies to the entire ATF rule, potentially impacting millions of gun owners around the United States.

The case, Britto v. ATF, challenges the pistol brace rule under the Administrative Procedures Act, a decades-old law that governs in which federal agencies propose or establish regulations. Judge Kacsmaryk  found that the plaintiff’s case will likely prevail, meaning that the ATF rule will likely be struck down.

Citing another case, Mock v. Garland, over the pistol brace ban, the judge wrote that “as explained in Garland, ‘[t]he controlling law of this case is that the Government Defendants’ promulgation of the Final Rule ‘fails the logical-outgrowth test and violates the APA’ and ‘therefore must be set aside as unlawful’ under the APA.’”

However, he found that some parties could be injured, including those who own and deal the braces.

“Additionally, ATF admits the 10-year cost of the Rule is over one billion dollars … and because of the Rule, certain manufacturers that obtain most of their sales from the stabilizing braces risk having to close their doors for good,” the order stated.

The judge’s order was hailed by pro-Second Amendment groups on Wednesday, including Gun Owners of America, which described the decision as “huge news.”

Late last month, another district judge extended a preliminary injunction against the ATF’s enforcement of the rule and wrote that the injunction “shall remain in effect pending a final resolution of the merits of this case or until a further Order from this Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, or the United States Supreme Court.”

Earlier this year, a panel at the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the ATF finalized the rule in January without giving the public a meaningful chance to comment on it. That made it invalid under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, the panel found.

Before that, multiple federal judges have issued preliminary orders blocking enforcement of the rule enacted by President Joe Biden’s administration and challenged by lawsuits from gun rights groups. But those orders had applied only to members of the groups, and only in those judges’ jurisdictions.

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. Many users found that the braces could also be placed against the shoulder, like the stock on a rifle.

The ATF rule mandates that owners of braces take one of five steps, including turning in the entire firearm with the attached brace to the agency, destroying the whole firearm, convert a short-barreled rifle into a long-barreled one, apply and register the gun under the National Firearms Act, or remove and dispose of the stabilizing brace from the firearm.

According to text the ATF submitted to the Federal Register, “Because short-barreled rifles are among the firearms considered unusual and dangerous, subjecting them to regulation under the [National Firearms Act], it is especially important that such weapons be properly classified.”

“Indeed, firearms with ‘stabilizing braces’ have been used in at least two mass shootings, with the shooters in both instances reportedly shouldering the ‘brace’ as a stock, demonstrating the efficacy as ‘short-barreled’ rifles of firearms equipped with such ‘braces,'” the ATF said.

It also suggested that the “use of a purported ‘stabilizing brace’ cannot be a tool to circumvent the [National Firearms Act] and the prohibition on the unregistered possession of ‘short-barreled rifles.'”

Gun rights groups and gun organizations have been uniformly critical of the ATF rule. An opinion article published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade organization, say the “stabilizing pistol brace rule redefined brace-equipped pistols as short-barreled rifles, requiring that they be registered as controlled items under the National Firearms Act, requiring tax stamps and submission of fingerprints, photos and redundant background checks,” but termed the rule as “unconstitutional.”

The pistol brace rule as well as 2022 ATF rulemaking targeting “frames or receivers” creates a “criminal law without the consent and will of Congress. It is important to remember that only Congress can draft laws—especially those that involve criminal punishments,” according to the group. “When an executive authority does that on their own, that’s tantamount to tyranny.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the Department of Justice, which oversees the ATF, for comment Thursday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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