Federal Judge Sides With NRA In Lawsuit Over Pistol Brace Rule

by State Brief



A federal judge has blocked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) from enforcing against members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) a rule reclassifying pistol-brace-equipped guns as short barrel rifles.

Last summer, the NRA filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas seeking to enjoin the ATF from enforcing a rule that would have reversed its longstanding position that pistol braces do not transform pistols into rifles, which would effectively render them short-barreled rifles subject to stricter regulation under the National Firearms Act.

Despite previously finding that pistol braces did not render pistols short-barreled rifles, the agency used federal rule-making to reverse its position in January 2023.

Gun rights organizations began filing lawsuits immediately, and by the end of May multiple judges had already issued preliminary injunctions against the ATF.

“This rule enhances public safety and prevents people from circumventing the laws Congress passed almost a century ago. In the days of Al Capone, Congress said back then that short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns should be subjected to greater legal requirements than most other guns. The reason for that is that short-barreled rifles have the greater capability of long guns, yet are easier to conceal, like a pistol,” ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in a statement at the time about the rule change.

“But certain so-called stabilizing braces are designed to just attach to pistols, essentially converting them into short-barreled rifles to be fired from the shoulder,” he stated. “Therefore, they must be treated in the same way under the statute.”

The NRA objected to the rule change, explaining in the lawsuit that the “Final Rule arbitrarily reverses several years of settled administrative practice” by redefining pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles.

The constitutional rights organization said the rule change would impact millions of Americans, including many of the NRA’s 350,000 members in Texas and more than four million members nationwide, who could face the prospect of 10 years in prison.

Attorneys for the government argued that the NRA lacks standing to sue on behalf of millions of members on grounds that it had not met its burden of established associational standing. The government asserted the NRA had not identified a member who suffered harm or was in danger of sustaining direct injury as a result of the rule.

The NRA argued it does have standing to bring the suit because it is a “traditional membership association” whose members rely on it to protect their gun rights.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay sided with the NRA, stating the organization does have standing and that its members have or would likely face harm in the future as a result of the government’s rule change.

He also declared that the NRA is likely to succeed on the merits of the case.

The NRA celebrated the court decision as a win for constitutional rights.

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



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