Second Amendment Advocacy Groups, State Attorneys General Take on the ATF Over Pistol Brace

Gun Rights

Two gun rights organizations are supporting separate lawsuits over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) rule on pistol stabilizing braces.

“This rule demonstrates a clear abuse of power by the ATF,” Jason Ouimet, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement on the NRA website announcing the NRA’s support of a lawsuit filed by several states.

“They’re clearly carrying out the Biden Administration’s anti-gun agenda and it’s got to stop. The NRA is putting its full weight behind fighting this unlawful rule,” Ouimet wrote.

At issue is a device introduced in 2012 to assist the disabled and others who may need help shooting pistols built on the AR 15 platform. The stabilizing brace attaches to the rear of the pistol and the shooter’s forearm. This allows the shooter a steadier aim while holding the pistol with one hand.

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The ATF issued several open letters stating the braces did not change pistols into short-barreled rifles (SBR). However, the new rule said that changes in the braces’ design and information disseminated on how to use them make clear that the items do convert the large format pistols into prohibited SBRs.

National Rifle Association members
National Rifle Association members listen to speakers during the NRA’s 142 annual Meetings and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on May 4, 2013. (Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

The rule set a May 31, 2023, deadline for owners to register, destroy, or turn in their newly outlawed weapons. The rule waives any taxes or fees for registering the guns during the so-called “amnesty period.”

In that online statement, America’s largest gun rights organization said the rule was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

“The bureau is declaring that they will effectively decide on a case-by-case basis whether a firearm is subject to the NFA [National Firearms Act]. The NRA believes this rule will fail for the same reasons the bump stock rule failed—ATF can only apply federal statutes; it can’t rewrite them,” Ouimet, said.

The case is styled Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., v. Merrick Garland and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota. The plaintiffs are: SB Tactical, B&T USA, Wounded Warrior Richard Cicero, and a coalition of 25 states led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

The list of states includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

GOA and the Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) announced a partnership with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in suing the ATF over its rule.

erich pratt
Erich Pratt, senior vice president for Gun Owners of America, in an interview on NTD’s Capitol Report on May 28, 2022. (NTD/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

GOA announced on its website that it had joined Paxton and the Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) in suing the ATF, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, and the U.S. Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The 152-page filing takes the ATF rule apart explaining why the GOA believes the rule is unconstitutional.

GOA has been a vocal critic of the ATF and the pistol brace rule. In previous statements GOA leaders have said the rule is a backdoor method of building an unconstitutional gun registry. In a statement on the GOA website, GOA senior vice president Erich Pratt said his organization will not stand for what it considers an infringement on Second Amendment freedoms.

“Millions of Americans are facing a very tight deadline to destroy or register their lawfully owned property under this draconian new rule. We hope the court will hear the pleas of gun owners across the country who will be irrevocably harmed by this rule, and GOA stands ready to fight it at every turn,” Pratt’s statement reads.

The number of Americans impacted by the new rule is difficult to determine. The ATF estimates that 3 million pistol braces have been sold. The GOA and other Second Amendment advocates put the number closer to 40 million.

“This is yet another attempt by the Biden Administration to create a workaround to the U.S. Constitution and expand gun registration in America. There is absolutely no legal basis for ATF’s haphazard decision to try to change the long-standing classification for stabilizing braces, force registration on Americans, and then throw them in jail for 10 years if they don’t quickly comply,” Paxton said on the GOA website.

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