The ATF’s new rules requiring owners of pistol stabilizing braces to either register their brace-equipped pistols with the federal government or destroy/permanently disable the braces is now in effect, but hundreds of thousands of gun owners across the country are exempt from the edict, at least for now, thanks to lawsuits brought by the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Second Amendment Foundation.
Last week a panel on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency injunction against the new rule as it applies to the named plaintiffs in a case called Mock v. Garland, and while there was some initial confusion about the scope of that ruling, the judge later clarified that the injunction covers not only Maxim Defense and FPC as an entity, but all FPC members as well. On Wednesday, just hours before the ATF rule took effect, a second judge issued a similar ruling in a case called SAF v. ATF clarifying that her own recent injunction applies to all members of the Second Amendment Foundation as well.
In her prior order granting the preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle wrote, “The Court grants in part the Motion and issues a preliminary injunction as to Plaintiffs in this case only,” leaving a question as to whether the injunction applied to members of SAF. Late yesterday, SAF filed a motion to clarify the scope of the injunction. Today, Judge Boyle clarified the prior order with a new order and in a docket entry which stated, “The Court confirms that its Preliminary Injunction Order applies to both the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. and its members.”
“SAF has received numerous inquiries from individuals as to whether the injunction covered our members,” said SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut. “Our attorney had attempted to reach an understanding with the government as to the scope of the injunction and coverage of our members. When it became apparent that the parties were not seeing eye to eye on the matter, despite the 5th Circuit’s clarification in another case on this exact point, we asked the court for clarification. We are pleased to see that Judge Boyle agrees with our interpretation and that our members are indeed protected under this injunction.”
This is very good news, and not just for FPC/SAF members, though obviously they’re the immediate beneficiaries of these judicial determinations. By including the membership of these organizations in their injunctions, the Fifth Circuit panel and Judge Boyle are acknowledging the real harm that will come to law-abiding gun owners if the ATF rule is enforced against them. Going forward, FPC and SAF attorneys will be able to point to these rulings in their continued efforts to undo the new rule completely, because every person who purchased a stabilizing brace under the ATF’s previous (and longstanding) determination that stabilizing braces by themselves did not turn a brace-equipped pistol into a short barreled rifle is now impacted by their 180-degree reversal.
Would it have been better had the Fifth Circuit panel or Boyle simply granted an injunction against any enforcement of the rule while it’s being challenged in court? Sure, but that would have been an even more extraordinary step at this early stage in the legal process. The wheels of justice grind slowly but they are turning in our direction when it comes to the new stabilizing brace rule, and hopefully the hundreds of thousands of individuals now under the umbrella of these injunctions will soon be joined by the millions of other Americans who lawfully purchased and possessed their braces but are now at risk of federal prosecution and a ten-year prison sentence if they keep them without registering their weapon under the National Firearms Act.