NRA files suit over ATFs pistol brace rule

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

When the ATF decided to ban pistol braces, it was a problem. Part of the reason it was is because the ATF previously said such things were good to go, so a lot of Americans bought them. They put them on AR pistols because it made those pistols easier to use.


Then they changed their mind, and that’s an issue.

A number of lawsuits have been filed challenging this, and now it seems there’s one more.

The National Rifle Association has filed its own challenge to the ATF’s pistol brace rule.

From a press release:

The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) today announced it filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”), the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (“Defendants”) in opposition to the unlawful “pistol brace rule.”

“The NRA has ramped up its offense on this arbitrary and unconstitutional rule,” says NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre. “We are confident in our ability to confront the ATF and DOJ – and preserve freedom for NRA members.”

​Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District, Dallas Division, the lawsuit is the NRA’s latest challenge to the rule regarding stabilizing braces. On June 30, 2023, the same court denied the NRA’s motion to intervene in another legal action, while recognizing the NRA was positioned to pursue its own lawsuit – a course it now adopts in support of its millions of law-abiding members.

The lawsuit exposes the failings of the new rule – which subjects law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of an otherwise legal plastic apparatus on some firearms. The NRA previously submitted comments in opposition to the rule, filed a motion to intervene in another legal action, and supported a lawsuit by several state attorneys general filed in North Dakota.

“The NRA is pursuing every possible avenue in defense of its law-abiding members and their constitutional freedoms,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “Our members should be free of the threat of enforcement of this presumptively unlawful rule. We are confident that we will prevail in obtaining the same relief for them that has already been granted to members of other gun rights groups.”

As noted in the complaint, the NRA argues the rule is unconstitutional, as the ATF reverses its long-standing position that pistol braces do not transform pistols into rifles subject to onerous registration and taxation requirements under the National Firearms Act.

Previously, the NRA obtained clarification of multiple aspects of ATF’s proposed rule, including: 1) that braces removed from firearms do not necessarily have to be destroyed or altered in a way that prevents them from being reattached to a firearm; and 2) that imported pistols with stabilizing braces do not necessarily need to be destroyed or surrendered.

The NRA will go to court to obtain preliminary, and ultimately permanent, injunctive relief restraining Defendants from enforcing the “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces’” (the “Final Rule”) against law-abiding NRA members. First announced in January 2023, the Final Rule was set to go into effect June 1, 2023. Gun rights groups and the State of Texas are among those who have been granted preliminary injunctive relief from the Final Rule – and now the NRA seeks recognition of the irreparable harm its members also face from the Final Rule.

In opposition to the Final Rule, NRA President Charles Cotton has said, “The NRA will continue to defend its members and their constitutional freedoms – fighting this rule and President Biden’s anti-Second Amendment agenda in every forum available.”

The NRA represents millions of members across the nation in preserving the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, including hundreds of thousands of members in Texas. The NRA has approximately 350,000 members in Texas – the #1 state for NRA members.

As explained in the NRA’s Complaint, many of its members are being irreparably harmed by the Final Rule because they are forced to modify their firearms, destroy them, register them, or surrender them to the federal government under threat of criminal prosecution. Pistol stabilizing braces allow users to strap their gun to their forearm or place them on their shoulders for more stability. Millions of these devices are used by gun owners across the nation – particularly disabled veterans who need braces to safely use a pistol.

In late May, the court entered orders enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Final Rule against another gun-rights group and its members. However, the scope of the injunctive relief granted applies only to those plaintiffs.
The NRA backs and supports another lawsuit challenging ATF’s unlawful rule. The lawsuit, filed February 9, 2023, is captioned Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., v. Merrick Garland and was filed in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota. Plaintiffs include: SB Tactical, B&T USA, Wounded Warrior Richard Cicero, and a coalition of 25 states led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.


Yeah, it’s a long presser, but this is a serious issue. You can read the complaint itself here.

The truth is that based on what we’ve seen from the courts lately, there’s no chance this rule remains in place. Especially since the ATF previously ruled that these pistol braces were not an issue, as was noted above.

Further, there really isn’t much evidence to suggest that these pistol braces are actually an issue.

The truth of the matter is that AR-style rifles are like Mr. Potatohead for gun people. You can mix and match things until you’re blue in the face. Someone who might equip a pistol brace on a pistol and use it as a stock for illegal purposes can just as easily put, you know, a stock on it. Banning pistol braces doesn’t mean bad people aren’t going to carry short-barreled ARs around.

It just means that law-abiding people won’t be able to shoot their AR pistols as effectively.

This is particularly bad for disabled people such as veterans who may not be able to shoot a weapon two-handed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone decide to challenge this under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I don’t know that such a challenge will fly since I’m not a lawyer, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I’m glad to see the NRA file this lawsuit. I’m sure they’ll soon get an injunction similar to what FPC and SAF already have, which will be huge due to the NRA’s membership numbers.


At that point, the ban will exempt so many people that it might as well not exist.

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