In January, Attorney General Merrick Garland approved an ATF regulation concerning stabilizing braces, which are attachments for firearms like AR-15 pistols. These accessories enable individuals with disabilities to operate the weapon using a single hand. For instance, a soldier who lost an arm in combat could utilize the brace to effectively fire the gun. Following extensive deliberation within the ATF, the administration of President Joe Biden intervened and chose to prohibit these devices.
Gun advocacy groups promptly filed lawsuits against the president. Presently, an Appeals Court has dealt a setback to the administration’s endeavor to outlaw these braces.
The regulation concerning pistol braces became operational in the earlier part of this year. The administration contended that the concern arose from individuals employing these braces to shoulder their firearms as if they were rifles. This approach allowed them to circumvent the stricter regulations imposed by the government on firearms with shorter barrels.
The regulation didn’t have an effect on stabilizing braces explicitly intended for assisting individuals with disabilities in holding the weapon against their arms. However, those braces used for shouldering rifles came under examination due to the new regulation.
Individuals possessing firearms that were reclassified as short-barrel rifles were given until May 31 to adhere to the new regulations. They were required to detach the abbreviated barrel and affix it to a rifle featuring a barrel spanning 16 inches or more. Alternatively, they had the option to surrender the firearm at a nearby ATF office, render the gun inoperable, or permanently eliminate the stabilizing brace. Those who did not comply were susceptible to facing a felony charge.
On August 1st, a panel of three judges from the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling indicating that the ATF’s pistol brace rule likely violated the law. The judges concluded that the federal agency had established the rule without affording the American public sufficient time to provide input on the modification. This action put the agency in conflict with the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The APA delineates the procedures that federal agencies must follow while formulating and implementing regulations. This encompasses publishing notices about proposed rules and the final rule itself in the Federal Register, which permits the public to offer their opinions on the alterations.
The Fifth Circuit did not prevent the enforcement of the rule outright. Instead, they referred the matter back to US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor. He will need to determine whether to issue an injunction to halt the enforcement of the rule. If he chooses to do so, this decision would have a nationwide impact on the rule’s implementation.