Federal Judge Demolishes the Biden BATFE's 'Pistol Brace' Rule

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

A federal judge handed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) a loss and a scolding over its attempt to drastically change the classification of a pistol brace from unregulated to regulated. The case, Mock vs. Garland, was heard by Judge Reed O'Connor, a George W. Bush appointee in the Northern District of Texas.

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This was the second big win for the Second Amendment on Thursday.


RELATED: Federal Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Biden Gun Rule – RedState


This case has been kicking around the courts since March 2023. I wrote about the upcoming fight over pistol stabilizing braces in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Takes on the ATF Over Their Bizarre Pistol Brace Rule:

A pistol brace, also known as a stabilizing brace, is an accessory that attaches to the rear of the gun and allows the firearm, one that is technically a pistol, to be fired one-handed. These have been legal since their invention in 2010. However, on January 31, 2023, an ATF rule went into effect that classifies a pistol with a pistol brace as a “short-barreled rifle (SBR),” that is, a rifle with a barrel that is shorter than my…sorry, I meant to say 16 inches. The rule is complicated, but you have a few options:

  • Permanently remove or alter the brace so that it can’t be reattached
  • Add a barrel longer than 16 inches
  • Use an e-Form 1 or paper Form 1 to register it as an SBR
  • Turn it in to your local ATF office
  • Destroy the firearm

Here are a couple of videos explaining what a pistol brace is and how to comply with it.

Since writing that, the ATF has ruled that detaching the stabilizing brace is not sufficient to achieve compliance; the brace must be made inoperable or destroyed. The ATF director contradicted that guidance in testimony to Congress, but I wouldn’t count on using his testimony as a criminal defense.

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Prior Legal Action

The order barely took effect when the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) went to court to block it. The FPC sued on behalf of its membership, William Mock and Christopher Lewis sued as owners of pistol stabilizing braces, and Maxim Defense Industries LLC joined the suit as a manufacturer of braces:

Plaintiffs William T. Mock, Christopher Lewis, Maxim Defense Industries, LLC, and Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc. (FPC) have sued Defendants Attorney General Merrick Garland, in his official capacity, the United States Department of Justice, Director of ATF Steven Dettelbach, in his official capacity, and ATF. Individual Plaintiffs Mock and Lewis are Texas residents who own at least one braced pistol and would purchase others in the immediate future but for the Final Rule’s additional regulatory requirements. Maxim Defense is a firearms and firearms accessories manufacturer and retailer that specializes in stabilizing braces and braced pistols. The majority of Maxim Defense’ revenues are attributable to sales of products now subject to the Final Rule. FPC is a nonprofit organization that exists to defend and promote its members’ constitutional rights, advance individual liberty and restore freedom through political and legal advocacy and public education. FPC’s membership includes individual gun owners, licensed manufacturers and retailers, gun ranges, firearms trainers and educators, and others. Individual Plaintiffs and Maxim Defense are members of FPC.

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The District Court judge ruled against them, and they appealed.

As this case was progressing, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with Gun Owners of America and Gun Owners Foundation, also filed a lawsuit. In addition to the Texas-led lawsuit, West Virginia and North Dakota are leading another major effort in a case called Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., vs. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Fifth Circuit reversed the District Court and sent it back with instructions for the judge to do his job.


BACKGROUND: 

Biden's ATF Loses on Biden's Signature Pistol Brace Ban but a Bigger Loss Is on the Way – RedState

Biden's BATFE Gets Dealt Major Blow in Pistol Brace Case – RedState


Today's decision was a clean sweep for the plaintiffs. Judge O'Connor slammed the BATFE for violating rule-making procedures and exceeding its regulatory authority. He stopped just short of asking the BATFE to provide written evidence that they had a clue or were capable of finding one.

The current order only covers the Fifth Circuit, the named plaintiffs, and the members of the groups who are also litigants. 

This case is headed for the Supreme Court, and when it arrives, I think it will result in a resounding victory for the Second Amendment.

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