By: José Niño

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gun Owners of America (GOA) are currently looking for the courts to impose a preliminary injunction on a pistol brace regulation that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) enacted at the end of January.

Back on February 9, 2023, Paxton and GOA filed their first lawsuit. At the time, Paxton said to Breitbart News, “[The pistol brace rule] is yet another attempt by the Biden Administration to create a workaround to the U.S. Constitution and expand gun registration in America. There is absolutely no legal basis for ATF’s haphazard decision to try to change the long-standing classification for stabilizing braces, force registration on Americans, and then throw them in jail for ten years if they don’t quickly comply. This rule is dangerous and unconstitutional, and I’m hopeful that this lawsuit will ensure that it is never allowed to take effect.”

This new ATF rule would subject pistol stabilizer braces to National Firearms Act (NFA) regulations. According to AWR Hawkins of Breitbart News, this rule was published in the Federal Register on January 31, 2023. Hawkins noted that the regulation gives pistol stabilizer brace owners 120 days to take one of the five actions, which are detailed below:

  • Turn in the entire firearm with the attached “stabilizing brace” to ATF;
    • Destroy the whole firearm;
    • Convert the short-barreled rifle into a long-barreled rifle;
    • Apply to register the weapon under the NFA; or
    • Permanently remove and dispose of, or alter, the “stabilizing brace” from the firearm so that it cannot be reattached.

Paxton and GOA are currently seeking a preliminary injunction against the regulation. The plaintiffs argue that the ATF has radically transformed its policies on stabilizer braces, by initially treating them as “lawful” to later treating them as accessories that turn pistols into short-barrel rifles that must be registered.

The two parties issued a statement sounding off against the ATF:

“For nearly a decade, ATF repeatedly promised the American public that pistol ‘stabilizing braces’—firearm accessories that can be attached to the back of a handgun to secure it to the shooter’s forearm, making the handgun safer and easier to handle for persons who otherwise would struggle to stabilize the gun—are lawful and unregulated accessories that are not shoulder stocks and do not transform handguns into short-barreled rifles (‘SBRs’) regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (‘NFA’)…In fact, numerous ATF classification letters broadly opine that a pistol stabilizing brace, when added to any pistol, does not ordinarily result in an SBR…ATF has even opined that shouldering a pistol with a stabilizing brace (i.e., using a pistol like a rifle) does not transform handguns into SBRs.”

Paxton and GOA argued that “the Final Rule does not represent reasoned (much less lawful) decision making. Rather, it is the handicraft of unelected bureaucrats seeking to exercise power beyond lawful limits without any oversight or accountability.”

The two parties petitioned the court to intervene, declaring that “intervention is therefore necessary, not only to restore order from the agency’s chaos, but also to assure this nation’s gun owners, and the American people, that they can have respect for – rather than contempt of – the rule of law.”

The ATF has been recently in the crosshairs of the pro-gun movement. And for good reason. It’s an unelected bureaucracy that’s completely shieled from democratic accountability and pressure. Because of the divided nature of Congress, there won’t be any legislative acts passed to rein in its powers any time soon. However, there will be plenty of opportunities through the courts that gun owners can use to check some of the federal government’s excesses.

Organizations like GOA are exploiting this to its fullest.

José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at joseninop[email protected]. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.