A coalition of 24 states filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday over a recent rule that subjects pistols equipped with stabilizing braces to federal regulation.
The legal challenge, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, argues that the new rule represents an abrupt reversal of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) longstanding position on stabilizing braces and is a violation of the statutory language and history of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Gun Control Act (GCA).
The new ATF rule, called Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached Stabilizing Braces, classifies pistols equipped with stabilizing braces, or pistol braces, as short-barreled rifles, which subjects them to federal regulation.
Lawful gun owners who use a stabilizing brace are required by the rule to comply with the laws that regulate rifles, including the NFA. This means they would have to apply for a permit, be registered in a federal database, provide their fingerprints to the ATF, pay a tax, and face restrictions on the future transfer of the brace.
According to the lawsuit, the new rule requires millions of Americans to choose between the loss of their lawful firearms, the loss of their privacy, and the risk of criminal penalties.
“Frustrated with congressional inaction, the President of the United States ordered ATF to abandon a decade of practice under an established statutory framework and ‘to treat pistols modified with stabilizing braces’ as ‘subject to the National Firearms Act,’” the lawsuit states (pdf).
The lawsuit claims that the ATF rule is arbitrary and capricious, and the standard for determining whether a brace is designed and intended for shouldering is incoherent and unworkable.
“Let’s call this what it is: an effort to undermine Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” Morrisey said in a statement. “This is an egregious final rule turning millions of common firearms accessories into ‘short barreled rifles.’ This is a completely nonsensical regulation.”
The West Virginia attorney general said the rule is “part of the continued attack by the Biden administration against lawful gun owners.”
The lawsuit argues that the rule goes against the text, history, and purpose of the NFA and GCA and therefore should be considered illegal.
“Congress enacted the NFA to regulate ‘sawed-off guns’ and other dangerous weapons favored by criminal ‘gangster[s]’ for concealability and indiscriminate accuracy, and specifically left ‘without any restriction’ ‘pistols and revolvers and sporting arms,’” the lawsuit states. “The Rule, by contrast, regulates pistols and other firearms based on accessories designed as orthotics that make them less concealable, more accurate, and less dangerous, thereby undermining public safety.”
Stabilizing braces were designed to help people with disabilities use pistols, but have been widely used by many, including senior citizens and those with limited mobility, to prevent recoil and improve accuracy.
“We should not be making it harder for senior citizens and people with disabilities—and many disabled veterans—to defend themselves,” Morrisey said. “I will continue [to] stand up for the Second Amendment rights of all West Virginians.”
“This is also another case of a federal agency not staying in its lane and doing the job the constitution clearly delegates to Congress—writing laws,” he added. “The Separation of Powers clearly bars federal agencies from making new laws without Congressional directive.”
The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota Western Division to declare the rule unlawful.
Policy ‘Infringes … Gun Rights’
Attorney General Todd Rokita of Indiana, one of the 24 states to join the lawsuit, said the new ATF rule “infringes Hoosiers’ gun rights.”
Rokita noted that the rule contradicts more than a decade of agency practice, during which the ATF repeatedly assured manufacturers and the public that attaching a stabilizing brace to a pistol would not alter its regulatory or statutory classification.
“As long as I’m attorney general, we will never willingly cede Hoosiers’ cherished liberties to the whims of federal bureaucrats,” Rokita said in a statement. “This is a clear case of overreach by the executive branch, and we fully expect to prevail in this lawsuit.”
Rokita thanked Morrisey for his work organizing the multistate coalition.
“By standing together, the individual states can stop the federal government from riding roughshod over our people’s freedoms,” Rokita said. “Standing up to tyranny is a time-honored American tradition. It requires us not only to resist broad sweeping power grabs but also to combat the incremental chipping away of rights.”
The Epoch Times contacted the U.S. Attorney General’s office for comment.