November 10, 2023
A federal judge on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction blocking nationwide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from enforcing the recent Biden Administration rule redefining braced pistols as short-barreled rifles (SBRs) under the National Firearms Act. In the case Britto v. ATF, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, blocked enforcement of the rule after a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month found that the rule violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it “was not a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule,” that the “monumental error was prejudicial,” and that it “must be set aside as unlawful. At the time of that ruling, in the case Mock v. Garland, the circuit court blocked enforcement of the law only against plaintiffs in the case.
In issuing the preliminary injunction blocking enforcement nationwide, Judge Kacsmaryk made some very valid points. In doing so, however, he also acknowledged the ATF and its duties in regulating firearms.
“Likewise, the Court is certainly sympathetic to the ATF’s concerns over public safety in the wake of tragic mass shootings,” he wrote in the decision. “The Rule ‘embodies Salutary policy goals meant to protect vulnerable people in our society.’ But public safety concerns must be addressed in ways that are lawful. This Rule is not.”
Plaintiffs in the case are three decorated Marine veterans—two who suffered combat injuries while serving—who possess guns that are likely classified as SBRs under the rule. They contend that the rule violates the Second Amendment, violates the separation of powers and nondelegation principles, conflicts with the NFA’s definition of “rifle,” and is arbitrary and capricious under the APA. The court found that the plaintiffs satisfied all four rules necessary for an injunction to be granted—they have a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits, they will suffer irreparable harm if the motion is denied, the threatened injury outweighs any harm that will result if the injunction is granted, and the public interest supports injunctive relief. Interestingly, Judge Kacsmaryk also made some observations about the rule that many fail to consider—the vast expense of enforcing it and horrendous damage to companies who produce stabilizing braces.
“The ATF admits the 10-year cost of the Rule is over $1 billion,” he wrote. “And because of the Rule, certain manufacturers that obtain most of their sales from stabilizing braces risk having to close their doors for good.”
While Judge Kacsmaryk’s court oversees only about 100 counties in northern and central Texas, for now the pistol brace rule cannot be enforced throughout the nation. Note that unlike some seem to believe, the ruling didn’t overturn the NFA or any other provisions within that law. The ball is now in the Justice Department’s court to decide what course of action to try next.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Most likely, the Justice Department will appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Depending on their decision, which could be to not to stay Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling, the Justice Department could then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even if the Supreme Court would rule in favor of gun owners, which would be a great victory, the 2024 election will have impact on the brace issue as well as many other 2nd Amendment issues. If Republicans lose Congress, expect the Democrats to push a bill that would amend the 1934 National Firearms Act and place braces, and most likely semi-auto rifle-caliber handguns, into the restricted firearms category with machineguns, short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, and AOWs (Any Other Weapon). The fight for the 2nd Amendment is far from over.]
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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