Gun rights group files amended federal complaint on arm brace rule

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Second Amendment Foundation announced that they have filed an amended complaint to a former lawsuit they launched over two years ago. SAF, v. ATF, et. al. was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on January 15, 2021, with the amended complaint filed on February 17, 2023. Both complaints pertain to the ATF’s executive overreach in rulemaking concerning arm braces.


Last month the SAF mentioned in a release that the case had renewed interest since the new rule was published and the suit was to be moving forward.

While the definition of a rifle in federal law should be clear, noted attorney Chad Flores, who is representing SAF in a federal lawsuit filed two years ago that was stayed by the court in anticipation of this new rule, it is clear the Biden administration’s new definition of a rifle ignores tradition. SAF sued ATF and the U.S. Attorney General in 2021 in a case known as SAF et. al. v. BATFE, et. al.

SAF is joined in that case by Rainier Arms, LLC and two private citizens, Samuel Walley and William Green. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.

According to Flores’ analysis of the 291-page Final Rule, the definition of a “rifle” now turns on a bewildering six-factor test. This new definition can be controlled not by the firearm’s objective characteristics, but instead by what ATF agents in D.C. think of a manufacturer’s marketing materials or the firearm’s “likely use.”  The new rule itself is forced to admit its dramatic result: Under this new definitional regime, “a majority of the existing firearms equipped with a ‘stabilizing brace’ are likely to be classified as ‘rifles.’”

“The Biden administration’s new rifle definition overrides the true wish of Congress, to upend the reasonable expectations of stabilizing brace users and makers nationwide,” Flores said.

In Friday’s announcement, the foundation accused the Biden administration of violating the Administrative Procedures Act, the Second Amendment, and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. They also pointed out the continual weaponization of these agencies act as a way to work around Congress. SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut said of the move, “Joe Biden is continuing to use ATF as a means to circumvent Congress,” Kraut continued:


And this new rule is his administration’s latest attempt. He has been obsessed with banning guns and criminalizing gun owners ever since he arrived on Capitol Hill fifty years ago. In the process, he is causing irreparable financial harm to firearms retailers, which to this administration must seem like an added benefit.

SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb noted that the Biden administration’s interpretation of the law is a departure from former positions. Under the new rule, the federal definition on whether a pistol with a brace is considered a pistol is in conflict with what the agency has said in the past. Gottlieb said:

This dramatic shift in policy leads us to conclude the president, through his agency directors, is moving to change the definition of pistols fitted with these braces to be “rifles,” and thus subject to the National Firearms Act. In so doing, the administration has turned millions of law-abiding pistol owners into criminals who suddenly own guns now defined as “short-barreled rifles.” This is unconscionable.

There are multiple assaults on multiple fronts being waged against the Biden administration on the pistol brace rule and other areas of overreach. The SAF was in front of this situation with the litigation being active for so long. Gottlieb is hopeful that the court will expeditiously grant the requested injunction and is “asking the court to act now, well in advance of that date [May 31st when the rule goes into effect], to prevent what amounts to a constitutional travesty.”


The leadership at the SAF is correct in asserting that the rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” How the court will intend on handling this is hard to determine. As has been cited probably hundreds – if not thousands – of times since the opinion came down, NYSRPA v. Bruen is a game changer. The federal government is going to have a hard time proving that the banning and or taxing of “little rifles” or “big pistols” is analogous with what was acceptable at the time of our founding, beyond speaking to the circumvention of our entire political process.

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