NRA Files Suit Against ATF Over “Pistol Brace Rule”

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The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) has filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”), the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), ATF Director Steven 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.”

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District, Dallas Division, the lawsuit is the NRA’s latest challenge to the rule regarding stabilizing braces. On June 30, 2023, the same court denied the NRA’s motion to intervene in another legal action, while recognizing the NRA was positioned to pursue its own lawsuit – a course it now adopts in support of its millions of law-abiding members.

The lawsuit exposes the failings of the new rule – which subjects law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of an otherwise legal plastic apparatus on some firearms. The NRA previously submitted comments in opposition to the rule, filed a motion to intervene in another legal action, and supported a lawsuit by several state attorneys general filed in North Dakota.

“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.”

As noted in the complaint, the NRA argues the rule is unconstitutional, as the ATF 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.

​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.

​The NRA will go 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 Final Rule.

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