The Second Amendment Foundation, along with two private citizens and Washington State-based gunmaker Rainier Arms, have filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives violated the Administrative Procedures Act “relating to its flip-flop regulation of arm braces on semiautomatic pistols.”
“There are several issues at play in this case,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “It concerns the failure of the agencies and its officials to abide by long-established and Congressionally-mandated rulemaking requirements, threatening rights protected by the Second Amendment. This is especially important to disabled persons because these devices were originally developed to benefit shooters with physical disabilities.
“We think it is also important to file this case now,” he continued, “because the incoming Biden administration has made no secret it intends to take various regulatory actions and issue executive orders directly affecting gun owners. We’re putting the new administration on notice we will be watching their every move where the Second Amendment rights of American citizens are concerned.”
You can read a copy of the lawsuit here. In it, the plaintiffs allege that the violations of the APA date back several years, to an “open letter” issued by the agency in 2015 on the issue of stabilizing braces. According to SAF, that open letter was actually “a repudiation of the previous ATF rule on arm braces, and that set forth new legal standards and new legal requirements based on ‘use.’
In other words, the ATF changed the rules regarding stabilizing braces, but they didn’t actually go through the formal process of doing so as required under federal law. As a result of their actions and continued vagueness regarding the legal status of stabilizing braces, the SAF says it’s virtually impossible for any user to know whether they’re in compliance with the law or not.
Plaintiff Samuel Walley is a distinguished disabled Army veteran who suffered a traumatic injury while serving in Afghanistan in 2012. He was wounded by an improvised explosive device resulting in partial amputation of his right leg and left arm, and a salvaged left leg limb. He uses arm braces to stabilize firearms he shoots recreationally.
William Green is a police officer who suffered a line-of-duty injury resulting in permanent nerve damage to his right hand. He also uses arm braces to stabilize firearms while he is shooting.
The lawsuit was filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the ATF will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. The SAF’s Alan Gottlieb says “with some two million arm braces now in common use, the AFT can’t just regulate an accessory like this and constantly leave people confused.” To that end, the 2A organization and the other plaintiffs are “asking the court for an injunction to prevent this sort of thing” from happening again.