The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) announced today that it would be expediting its motion for a preliminary injunction to protect its members from the Biden Administration’s unlawful attempt to reclassify braced pistols as “rifles” subject to onerous registration requirements.
The announcement comes a day after the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Mock v. Garland, which finds the controversial “pistol brace rule” recently issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) is probably unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).
In an opinion issued yesterday, the Fifth Circuit agreed with what the NRA has contended from Day 1 – the Biden Administration’s Pistol Brace Rule is unlawful.
The rule seeks to rewrite the National Firearms Act (“NFA”) to make any pistol that has a stabilizing brace attached a “rifle” subject to the stringent registration and transfer requirements of the NFA. But the ATF sought to couch its sweeping rewrite of the law as a mere “interpretation” of the NFA – despite the fact that, over the course of more than a decade, the ATF has repeatedly assured law-abiding gun owners and manufacturers that adding a brace to a pistol does not transform the weapon into a “rifle.”
Thus, the ATF contradicted itself and sought to subject law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of an otherwise legal plastic apparatus on some firearms. Even worse, the ATF sought to sidestep a barrage of negative comments for its proposed rule, including the NRA’s comments, by attempting an 11th-hour rewrite of the Pistol Brace Rule to add a poorly conceived six-factor test “considering everything from the weight of the firearm with the stabilizing brace attached to the prevalence of Youtubers’ demonstrating the likely use of the weapon,” in the words of the Fifth Circuit.
While the Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court to determine the proper scope of injunctive relief, the writing is on the wall: the Pistol Brace Rule is illegal and cannot withstand scrutiny. Further, the Fifth Circuit observed that “in certain circumstances, nationwide relief is appropriate and may be necessary for the benefit of all parties” and emphasized the need for a “consistent application of the law.” All that is left is for the lower courts to give effect to the Fifth Circuit’s clear direction.
The NRA initially backed a lawsuit by several state attorneys general in North Dakota, sought to intervene in a Texas legal action challenging the unlawful rule, and, on July 3, 2023, filed its own lawsuit against the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF Director Dettelbach, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (“Defendants”) seeking a preliminary injunction protecting its members from the pistol brace rule. Now, the NRA will move to ensure that its preliminary injunction motion moves on an expedited schedule, so its members may obtain relief even more quickly in light of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling. It is also appealing the denial of its motion to intervene in the Fifth Circuit – an appeal that is currently proceeding on an expedited schedule.
“The NRA fought this unlawful rule at every level – first as a supporter of a major case and then as a plaintiff at the tip of the spear,” says NRA CEO & EVP Wayne LaPierre. “This ruling sends a powerful message to NRA members and law-abiding gun owners everywhere: freedom will be preserved.”
“The NRA will move swiftly to expedite its pending preliminary injunction motion, allowing the NRA and its members to quickly obtain the relief they deserve,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “The Fifth Circuit’s ruling leaves little doubt that the NRA will achieve success on behalf of its members and prevail in protecting them from this unlawful overreach. All the gun rights groups who stood up to this attack on freedom should be commended.”