A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from fully implementing new regulations on pistols with stabilizing braces, gun accessories that President Biden called “especially dangerous” after they were used in several mass shootings .
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to enforce its new rule against gun owners and Second Amendment groups that filed a lawsuit challenging the regulation. The temporary order comes days before the deadline for individuals to register their pistol braces with the ATF, destroy them, or remove the accessories from their weapons. Those who do not comply with the regulation by May 31 will be forced to pay a fee.
Gun rights groups have argued in court that the stabilizing brace rule violates the Constitution by requiring millions of gun owners to register their weapons. The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the rule “onerous and unconstitutional.” The FPC brought the case to the Fifth Circuit after appealing a lower court order from a Texas judge that refused to block implementation of the rule while a court challenge was pending.
The stabilizing brace rule was introduced as part of a comprehensive gun crime strategy announced by Biden in April 2021 in response to the massacre at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, where a gunman used a gun with a stabilizing brace to kill of 10 people. In 2019, another mass murderer used a stabilizing brace in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine people.
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The ATF defines stabilizing braces as an accessory “that provides a surface area that allows the firearm to be fired from the shoulder, as long as other factors indicate that the firearm is designed, manufactured, and intended to be fired from on the shoulder.”
The ATF rule, finalized Jan. 13, categorizes pistols with attached stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles, which Congress tightly regulates because they are both accurate and concealable, making them dangerous to mishandlers. hand Biden has accused the gun industry of trying to circumvent federal regulations by selling stabilizing braces, which he and his administration claim can “essentially convert a pistol into a short-barreled rifle.”
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At least three million guns with stabilizing braces are in circulation in the US, according to the ATF. Estimates by the Congressional Research Service indicate that there are currently between 10 million and 40 million stabilizing braces in circulation.
Second Amendment advocates dispute the government’s characterization of stabilizing braces, pointing out that the accessories are designed to help disabled combat veterans continue to enjoy recreational shooting. They also argued that the ATF said that adding a stabilizing brace does not make a pistol a long gun in a ruling made a decade ago.
The full impact of the court’s decision was not immediately clear. The order applied only to the plaintiffs in the case: two gun owners, a company that makes pistols with stabilizing braces, and a gun rights group. The appeals court did not say whether the rule was blocked for others, including people who bought guns from the company, Maxim Defense Industries, and members of the Firearms Policy Coalition.
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The FPC said in a statement that the group is seeking clarification on who is covered under the scope of the order.
“We are very excited and encouraged by the Fifth Circuit’s decision this morning,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, senior attorney for constitutional litigation at the FPC Action Foundation. “We intend to ask the court for more information about who is covered under the order, but cannot emphasize enough how important this decision is. The fight is still a long way off, but this is a major victory in the fight against illegal unconstitutional and unconstitutional ATF. illegal brace rule!”
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The Department of Justice and ATF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.