February 10, 2023 – Two significant lawsuits were filed yesterday seeking to block enforcement of the ATF’s recently enacted Final Rule on Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached “Stabilizing Braces” (“Final Rule”). As we have reported, under the Final Rule, almost all pistols with a barrel length of less than sixteen inches that are equipped with a stabilizing brace are considered a short-barreled rifle (SBR) and subject to the heightened ownership and transfer restrictions in the National Firearms Act, including registration and taxation.
Significantly, Attorneys General from 26 separate states spearheaded these challenges to the ATF’s procedure and the substance of the rule. One lawsuit was commenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, by the State of Texas and a firearms rights organization, Gun Owners of America, Inc. The other lawsuit was commenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, by the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, several manufacturers of stabilizing braces, and 25 additional states.
The complaints in both cases comprehensively outline the history of the ATF’s prior assessments of stabilizing braces and its sudden change in position after Congress failed to restrict usage of stabilizing braces. The lawsuits specifically allege that the ATF exceeded its rule-making authority by arbitrarily changing statutory definitions and using the administrative process to criminalize possession of firearms and accessories that were previously legal and commonly used throughout the country. Among other contentions, the complaints also allege that the Final Rule violates the Second Amendment by restricting the possession of firearms commonly owned by citizens for law-abiding purposes.
These two lawsuits, supported by 26 states, are the latest and most comprehensive challenge to ATF’s efforts to change existing law concerning the classification of firearms. At least four other lawsuits challenging the ATF rule had been previously filed and additional lawsuits are expected. Since the Texas and North Dakota actions are seeking preliminary injunctions to immediately prevent ATF’s enforcement of the rule, we anticipate that one or both courts will issue a substantive ruling within the next few months.
Renzulli Law Firm is closely monitoring these lawsuits and other litigation that affect the firearms industry. If you have any questions about complying with the ATF Rule and its applicability to specific firearms, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.