A conservative Wisconsin law firm is suing the Biden administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) over a new rule aimed at regulating stabilizing braces that can turn pistols into rifles, arguing the measure violates the right to bear arms.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo division, argues ATF acted outside of its authority in issuing the rule that would reclassify pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles.
The switch means that, with addition of the stabilizing brace accessory, the handheld pistol gets grouped in with the larger rifle weapon.
“By enforcing the unlawful Rule challenged herein, ATF violated Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment Rights by requiring them to submit to the NFA [National Firearms Act] regulatory process for possessing a lawful and commonly owned firearm accessory – namely, a stabilizing brace,” the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty wrote in the filing.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the ATF rule “makes clear that firearm manufacturers, dealers, and individuals cannot evade these important public safety protections simply by adding accessories” and ensures the modified weapons are subject to the same “heightened requirements” as other short-barreled rifles.
Garland directed ATF to address the issue back in 2021, and the rule was finalized earlier this month.
According to ATF, the rule doesn’t ban stabilizing braces, nor does it ban their use on handguns as intended, wherein the brace is attached to the arm for individuals with disabilities — but rather restricts their use to use the pistol as a shoulder-fired rifle.
The Wisconsin law firm boasts the new suit as its sixth against the Biden administration. Wisconsin veterans Gabriel Tauscher and Shawn Kroll are listed as plaintiffs, along with Texas veteran Darren Britto.
A separate lawsuit over the stabilizing braces rule was filed Tuesday by the Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for rights like access to arms and freedom of speech.
The lawsuit argues that the rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which allows courts to set aside actions from federal agencies that are “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law” or are contrary to constitutional rights.
It states that Congress granted the ATF the authority to regulate rifles somewhat more stringently than pistols, but the ATF’s action treats pistols as if they were rifles. It argues that pistols with the braces do not meet the definition of a rifle that Congress established.
The organization argues that the rule violates the Second Amendment even if it doesn’t violate the APA.
“Federal agencies do not have the power to write new laws, and yet the ATF continues to attempt to expand its authority using the federal rulemaking process,” Cody Wisniewski, the coalition’s senior attorney for constitutional litigation, said in a release. “This ‘rule’ is, in effect, a federal law that will transform millions of peaceable people into felons overnight simply for owning a firearm that has been lawful to own for decades.”
Updated: 7:47 p.m. ET