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Federal Judge Throws Out ATF Firearm Stabilizing Brace Rule

ATF Agent (ATF/Released)
June 14, 2024

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday that an effort by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to regulate firearm braces doesn’t pass legal muster.

Attorney General Merrick Garland approved the ATF’s pistol brace rule—dubbed the “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces’”—in January of 2023. The rule proposes a scoring system for determining whether a stabilizing brace attached to a firearm makes that firearm a short-barreled rifle (SBR) in the eyes of the federal government.

The National Firearms Act (NFA) restricts ownership of SBRs and certain other classes of firearms. Those seeking to obtain an NFA-regulated item must submit to a potentially lengthy waiting period, register their ownership of the item with the federal government, and pay a $200 for each NFA item. Noncompliance with the NFA can carry penalties of a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in federal prison, along with forfeiture of an offending individual’s right to own or possess firearms in the future.

Gun rights groups have challenged the legality of this ATF rule, including that the rule was passed in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The APA generally states executive branch agencies must have clear authorization from Congress to set regulations.

On Thursday Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas concluded the ATF’s firearm brace rule does violate the APA and is therefore vacated.

Gun Owners of America said the decision amounts to a nationwide reversal of the ATF’s brace rule.

The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), which supported the lawsuit challenging the ATF rule, celebrated the legal win but indicated the Department of Justice is likely to appeal the case.

“The Biden Administration’s ATF hates us so much that it lawlessly acted to turn millions of gun owners into felons, but FPC and our members ran towards the fire and defeated this evil,” FPC President Brandon Combs said of the ruling. “Today’s order shows that our community can take on an immoral government and win. FPC members should be proud of what was accomplished today. We look forward to defending this victory on appeal and up to the Supreme Court, just as we have in other cases.”

The order by Judge O’Connor—an appointee of President George W. Bush—comes after another judge in his federal court district granted a preliminary injunction this week blocking the ATF from enforcing another rule broadening the definition of firearms-related business activity requiring federal licensing. That ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk—an appointee of President Donald Trump—bars the ATF from enforcing this new regulatory definition against members of Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA), the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), and residents of Texas, Utah, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and an individual plaintiff named Jeffrey Tormey while the case proceeds through the federal court system.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.