Judge Rejects Injunction Against the ATF’s Pistol Brace Regulation

North Dakota District Judge Daniel L. Hovland recently upheld the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s regulation of guns featuring pistol-stabilizing devices or pistol braces.

The Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc. v. Garland was a lawsuit that the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition (FRAC) and 24 state attorney generals filed taking on the ATF’s final rule against pistol braces. The case put forward similar arguments as demonstrated in three Texas cases that involved the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Gun Owners of America (GOA), and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF). The aforementioned pro-gun organizations were granted preliminary injunctions for their members against the ATF regulations. Furthermore, a panel of three judges from the Fifth Circuit of Appeals  issued a ruling against the regulation.

In contrast to the Texas courts, Judge  Hovland determined that the ATF had the power to pass regulations on pistols equipped with braces.

The Judge believes that the ATF rule did not violate the Second Amendment. He argued that “uniquely dangerous weapons, including short-barreled rifles, are not protected by the Second Amendment.” Judge Hovland declared that the Second Amendment does not defend the ownership of “weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.” 

Judge Hovland also asserted that since pistol braces are not guns, they are not covered by Second Amendment safeguards: 

More important, the ATF’s Final Rule does not ban stabilizing braces or firearms equipped with them. Instead, the Final Rule requires individuals and entities to comply with the NFA’s statutory requirements by registering the weapons with the ATF or permanently detaching the stabilizing brace from the pistol. Simply stated, the Second Amendment is not at issue in this lawsuit, nor does the Second Amendment provide a ‘regulatory blank check’ to possess a stabilizing brace or a short-barreled rifle. The Second Amendment does not prohibit reasonable licensing regimes associated with ownership of a firearm.

On top of that, Judge Hovland believed the ATF had the power to issue the new regulation and declared that the ATF did not act in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

Judge Hovland made the case that the ATF did not change the definition of a rifle when crafting the regulation, and it has the power to reinterpret a rifle’s meaning. In the decision, he said the following:

This Court is not convinced that the ATF’s interpretation of a short-barreled rifle contradicts the original meaning of ‘rifle’ such that a preliminary injunction is warranted at this stage of the case. The Court recognizes that the Plaintiffs make some reasonable arguments in support of their position, but none necessitate the issuance of a preliminary injunction at this state which is an extraordinary remedy. Therefore, the Plaintiffs have not met their burden on this particular APA claim.

Indeed, the courts can help Second Amendment supporters. However, they’re not a silver bullet. After all, the US court system is still dominated by elites that are not exactly in favor of all of Middle America’s interests. 

In light of these facts, pro-gun advocates should do everything possible to diversify their activism strategies by using legislative lobbying, electioneering, litigation, nullification of gun control laws at all levels of governments, etc. This fight to restore the right to bear arms ultimately requires a multi-pronged approach for us to come out on top.

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