ATF pistol brace rule blocked by federal judge as illegal

 November 10, 2023

In a surprising legal development, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk has issued a preliminary injunction against the controversial AR-pistol brace rule imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), deeming the rule as fundamentally unlawful. 

The rule specifically targeted stabilizer braces affixed to AR-pistols, asserting that these accessories transformed the pistols into short-barrel rifles (SBRs), as Breitbart News reported. 

Given that SBRs fall under the regulatory purview of the National Firearms Act (1934), the ATF's rule aimed to address what it perceived as a regulatory gap and potential circumvention of SBR regulations.

Prior Rule

The ATF's pistol brace rule, implemented on January 13, 2023, mandated specific actions for owners of AR pistols with attached braces.

These measures included turning in the entire firearm with the stabilizing brace to the ATF, destroying the entire firearm, converting the short-barreled rifle into a long-barreled rifle, applying to register the weapon under the National Firearms Act, or permanently removing and disposing of, or altering, the stabilizing brace to prevent reattachment.

The legal case before Judge Kacsmaryk featured notable plaintiffs, including Gabriel Tauscher, a war veteran who employs a stabilizer brace due to partial disability in his left arm.

Tauscher argued that the ATF's pistol brace rule would inflict irreparable harm upon him.

Additional Arguments

Another plaintiff, Shawn M. Kroll, emphasized that his AR pistol, used primarily for recreation and self-defense, was not designed for shoulder firing. Kroll employed a stabilizer brace to enhance the firearm's safety features.

In delivering his ruling, Judge Kacsmaryk acknowledged the ATF's concerns regarding potential gamesmanship within the gun industry and efforts to circumvent SBR regulations.

However, he cited legal precedent, emphasizing that the government cannot justify the existence of a regulation solely by positing that it serves an important interest.

While expressing sympathy for the ATF's safety objectives, Kacsmaryk asserted that public safety concerns must be addressed within the bounds of the law. Consequently, he concluded that the ATF's pistol brace rule is not lawful.

Judge Kacsmaryk's issuance of a preliminary injunction signifies a substantial legal development in the ongoing debates and legal challenges surrounding firearm regulations.

The decision effectively stays the enforcement of the ATF's pistol brace rule, marking a nuanced intersection of legal interpretations and the ATF's attempts to navigate perceived regulatory loopholes within existing firearms laws.

The case, officially titled Britto v. ATF and docketed as No. 2:23-cv-19, unfolds in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, contributing to the evolving landscape of firearm-related legal precedents.

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