Thursday, November 9, 2023

Nationwide Halt on ATF's Pistol Brace Rule Ordered by Texas Federal Judge

In a decisive move, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas issued a comprehensive suspension on the ATF's enforcement of its contentious pistol brace regulation. This ruling came in response to the Britto v. ATF case, which took a firm stance against the ATF's new rule on firearms with attached stabilizing braces, a shift brought about by a directive from President Joe Biden. This directive led the ATF to backtrack on its previous classifications and nullify the determinations it had provided to brace manufacturers.

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The plaintiffs in the Britto case argued that the ATF's rule infringed upon the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), primarily because the final rule deviated significantly from the initial proposed rule, which included a point system (ATF Form 4999) aiding owners in determining the classification of their firearms. The final rule, devoid of the proposed point system, branded all pistols with braces as short-barreled rifles (SBRs), thus bringing them under the stringent National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA).

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Gun owners found themselves facing limited and stringent choices, such as registering their firearms under the NFA, modifying their weapons to comply with the Gun Control Act of 1968, permanently removing the brace, or surrendering the firearm to the ATF—options that many saw as tantamount to government confiscation or destruction of property.

Judge Kacsmaryk's decision to stay the rule nationally was bolstered by precedents from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously sided with the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) on a similar issue. The judge concurred that the ATF rule did not logically follow from the proposed rule and was thus unlawful.

The court's decision hinged on several key factors, including the likelihood of the plaintiffs' success in the case, the potential for irreparable harm without an injunction, and the public interest. Judge Kacsmaryk noted that the rule's illegality under the APA rendered any potential public interest moot and sided with the plaintiffs, who included veterans like Gabriel A. Tauscher, whose combat injuries necessitated the use of stabilizing braces.

With this stay in place, the rule is effectively put on hold, and all gun owners in the United States are shielded from the ATF's enforcement actions pertaining to the pistol brace rule, pending potential appeals from the ATF. This move has been seen as a significant victory for gun rights advocates and members of organizations like the Gun Owners of America (GOA), who have staunchly opposed the ATF's rule.

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