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Appeals Court Decides Against ATF Pistol Brace Rule

Judge states rule regulating pistol braces under NFA is likely unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has just delivered a major setback for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the agency’s bid to further restrict the use of pistol stabilizing braces on firearms.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said in its 58-page decision that the government is unlikely to win and has sent the case back to the district court with instructions to reconsider it within 60 days.

Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) was one of the parties who filed the lawsuit that led to the decision from the 5th Circuit, which could now lead to the ATF’s February rule making pistol braces subject to the stringent regulations under the National Firearms Act unconstitutional.

In a concurring opinion, Circuit Judge Don R. Willett said he suspects that ATF’s Final Rule “would likely fail constitutional muster,” adding that “protected Second Amendment ‘conduct’ likely includes making common, safety-improving modifications to otherwise lawfully bearable arms.”

Stabilizing braces appear similar to stocks found on the back of rifles. However, braces are able to strap to a firearm user’s arm, making pistols safer and more accurate. Alex Bosco invented the stabilizing brace in 2012 to help a disabled veteran fire his gun with only one hand.

“Said in its simplest terms, the Fifth Circuit just indicated that the Plaintiffs–Firearms Policy Coalition, Maxim Defense, and FPC’s individual members–are likely to defeat ATF’s pistol brace rule when the merits of this case are finally heard,” Cody J. Wisniewski, FPC’s General Counsel and FPC’s counsel in this case, said in a statement. “This is a huge win for peaceable gun owners across the nation, a huge win for FPC’s members, and yet another massive defeat for ATF and this administration’s gun control agenda.”

Judge Jerry E. Smith, writing the Court’s opinion, said, “The ATF incorrectly maintains that the Final Rule is merely interpretive, not legislative, and thus not subject to the logical-outgrowth test.”

He added, “The Final Rule affects individual rights, speaks with the force of law, and significantly implicates private interests. Thus, it is legislative in character. Then, because the Final Rule bears almost no resemblance in manner or kind to the Proposed Rule, the Final Rule fails the logical-outgrowth test and violates the APA [Administrative Procedures Act].”

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