Democrat Judge Exempts NRA Members From New Gun Rule

A Democratic-appointed judge recently barred a federal agency from enforcing a pistol brace rule for millions of members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as the appeals process continues.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1998, sided with the gun rights group in a ruling handed down on Friday. Last year, the NRA filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which argued that the agency’s measure introduced last year to reclassify the pistols equipped with braces as short-barreled rifles is unconstitutional.

The federal judge said in the ruling that the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had already concluded that the ATF’s pistol-brace rule “fails the logical outgrowth test and violates” the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and is “unlawful” under the act, which dictates the process in which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.

Lindsay also agreed with the NRA’s argument that its members would face irreparable harm under the new ATF pistol-brace rule.

“Compliance with the Final Rule is not discretionary, and the NRA’s members face severe penalties for their failure to comply with the Final Rule,” Lindsay wrote in the ruling. “Accordingly, both of the final requirements for injunctive relief are satisfied because the threatened injury to the NRA’s members outweighs the threatened harm to the Defendants, and enforcement of the Final Rule under the circumstances will not disserve the public interest.”

The judge’s order prohibits the ATF from “enforcing the Final Rule against the NRA’s members pending the final resolution of this action on the merits.”

Newsweek reached out via email on Tuesday to ATF for comment.

Judge Blocks Pistol Brace Rule
An MCK pistol brace for a handgun is displayed with firearm accessories for sale at a gun show on June 5, 2021, in Costa Mesa, California. A federal judge on Friday blocked the ATF from…


What’s a Pistol Brace?

A pistol brace, also known as a stabilizing brace or arm brace, is an accessory attached to the back of a gun that allows the weapon to be fired one-handed. The brace generally uses Velcro to secure the firearm to a person’s arm, stabilizing the gun. Such firearm accessories were used in a 2021 mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, where 10 people were killed by a single gunman.

The ATF, as part of a crackdown on “ghost guns” and illegal arms dealing, had attempted to regulate pistol braces with a new rule that would reclassify many pistols using such devices as short-barreled rifles. The change would require owners to ask for a federal license under the National Firearms Act.

The ATF Rule

In January 2023, the ATF finalized a change in regulations that would treat pistols with stabilizing braces like short-barreled rifles, subjecting them to additional regulations, including higher taxes, longer waiting periods and registration.

The reclassification by the federal agency would mandate that gun owners must register their existing pistols equipped with stabilizing braces with the government within 120 days and pay a $200 fee, which new buyers must also pay immediately. For gun owners who don’t want to register and pay the fee, they could remove the brace, surrender the firearm to an ATF office or destroy it. Those who failed to comply with the requirement could face a fine of up to $10,000, or 10 years in prison, or both.

When announcing the pistol-brace rule, ATF director Steve Dettelbach said the reasoning behind it “is that short-barreled rifles have the greater capability of long guns, yet are easier to conceal, like a pistol.”

The NRA’s Response

The NRA filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas on July 3, 2023, against the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Dettelbach. The NRA said in a statement emailed to Newsweek on Tuesday night that its lawsuit sought to “enjoin the ATF’s unconstitutional rule.”

The national gun rights group, which has millions of members, said in the statement that last week’s ruling “protects millions of NRA members across the nation who seek to use a pistol brace to safely use a firearm, including many lawful gun owners with disabilities.”

NRA President Charles Cotton took a swipe at President Joe Biden in a statement, which declared Lindsay’s ruling a win for gun owners.

“This is a major victory for the NRA, its members, and all who believe in Second Amendment freedom,” Cotton said. “From Day One, we vowed to fight back against President Biden and his rogue regulators—and to defeat this unlawful measure.”