PISTOL BRACE RULE
ABOUT THE NRA'S CASE
On June 6, 2023, the National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) announced it is intervening in a pending case to protect its members from the “pistol brace rule” promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”).
The NRA seeks to intervene in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, to obtain injunctive relief stopping the ATF from enforcing its unconstitutional rule – which reverses its long-standing position that pistol braces do not transform pistols into rifles subject to onerous registration and taxation requirements under the National Firearms Act. Defendants include, among others, the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ"), and Steven M. Dettelbach, in his official capacity as director of ATF (“Defendants”).
The filings are the latest steps taken by the NRA to challenge the new rule – which subjects law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of a legal plastic apparatus on some firearms.
Previously, the NRA obtained clarification of multiple aspects of ATF’s proposed rule, including 1) that braces removed from firearms do not necessarily have to be destroyed or altered in a way that prevents them from being reattached to a firearm; and 2) that imported pistols with stabilizing braces do not necessarily need to be destroyed or surrendered.
Now, the NRA is going to court to obtain preliminary, and ultimately permanent, injunctive relief restraining Defendants from enforcing the “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces’” (the “Final Rule”) against law-abiding NRA members. First announced in January 2023, the Final Rule was set to go into effect June 1, 2023. Gun rights groups and the State of Texas are among those who have been granted preliminary injunctive relief from the Final Rule – and now the NRA seeks recognition of the irreparable harm its members also face from the draconian measure.
“The NRA has consistently opposed this arbitrary attack on law-abiding gun owners on multiple fronts,” says NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The NRA is a leader in the largest and most aggressive legal challenge to this action and now aims to intervene in the Texas lawsuit. We are pursuing relief to protect our members – and bring a halt to this attack on their freedom.”
NRA President Charles Cotton says, “President Biden and his rogue regulators are on notice: the NRA will continue to defend its members and their constitutional freedoms – fighting this rule and the anti-Second Amendment agenda in every forum available.”
The NRA represents millions of members across the nation in preserving the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, including hundreds of thousands of members in Texas. The NRA has approximately 350,000 members in Texas – the #1 state for NRA members.
As explained in the NRA’s Complaint in Intervention, many of its members are being irreparably harmed by the Final Rule, because they are forced to modify their firearms, destroy them, register them, or surrender them to the federal government under threat of criminal prosecution. Pistol stabilizing braces allow users to strap their gun to their forearm or place them on their shoulders for more stability. Millions of these devices are used by gun owners across the nation—particularly disabled veterans who need braces to safely use a pistol.
In late May, the court entered orders enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Final Rule against another gun-rights group and its members. However, the scope of the injunctive relief granted applies only to plaintiffs.
“The courts have already recognized other gun-promotion groups should be afforded protection from this rule,” Cotton says. “The NRA now seeks to intervene – to extend the protections to the Association. The NRA is the leading provider of gun-safety and marksmanship education in the nation, so there is compelling need for the relief being sought for its members.”'
On June 30, 2023, the court denied the NRA’s motion to intervene, while recognizing the NRA was positioned to pursue its own lawsuit.
On July 3, 2023, the NRA filed a lawsuit against the ATF, DOJ, ATF Director Dettelbach, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (“Defendants”) in opposition to the unlawful “pistol brace rule.”
“The NRA has ramped up its offense on this arbitrary and unconstitutional rule,” says NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre. “We are confident in our ability to confront the ATF and DOJ – and preserve freedom for NRA members.”
“The NRA is pursuing every possible avenue in defense of its law-abiding members and their constitutional freedoms,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “Our members should be free of the threat of enforcement of this presumptively unlawful rule. We are confident that we will prevail in obtaining the same relief for them that has already been granted to members of other gun rights groups.”
On August 2, 2023, the NRA announced that it would be expediting its motion for a preliminary injunction to protect its members from the Biden Administration’s unlawful attempt to reclassify braced pistols as “rifles” subject to onerous registration requirements.
The announcement came a day after the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Mock v. Garland, which found the “pistol brace rule” is probably unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).
In an opinion issued on August 1, the Fifth Circuit agreed with what the NRA has contended from Day 1 – the Biden Administration’s Pistol Brace Rule is unlawful.
While the Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court to determine the proper scope of injunctive relief, the writing is on the wall: the Pistol Brace Rule is illegal and cannot withstand scrutiny. Further, the Fifth Circuit observed that “in certain circumstances, nationwide relief is appropriate and may be necessary for the benefit of all parties” and emphasized the need for a “consistent application of the law.” All that is left is for the lower courts to give effect to the Fifth Circuit’s clear direction.
“The NRA fought this unlawful rule at every level – first as a supporter of a major case and then as a plaintiff at the tip of the spear,” says LaPierre. “This ruling sends a powerful message to NRA members and law-abiding gun owners everywhere: freedom will be preserved."
“The NRA will move swiftly to expedite its pending preliminary injunction motion, allowing the NRA and its members to quickly obtain the relief they deserve,” says Brewer. “The Fifth Circuit’s ruling leaves little doubt that the NRA will achieve success on behalf of its members and prevail in protecting them from this unlawful overreach. All the gun rights groups who stood up to this attack on freedom should be commended.”