Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Challenges ATF’s Controversial Pistol Brace Regulation

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an injunction against a rule that was put into effect by the lawless Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of Biden (ATF), criminalizing the pistol brace.

The pistol brace (also known as a stabilizing or stabilizer brace) is an accessory that attaches to the rear of the gun. It allows the firearm to be fired one-handed. Since their inception in 2010, these braces have been legal. On January 31, 2023, however, ATF rules were implemented that classified a pistol equipped with a pistol brace (SBR) as a “short-barreled rifle” or a rifle that has a shorter barrel.  Although the rule is complex, there are a few options.

  • Permanently remove or alter the brace so that it can’t be reattached
  • Add a barrel longer than 16 inches
  • Use an e-Form 1 or paper Form 1 to register it as an SBR
  • Turn it in to your local ATF office
  • Destroy the firearm

These videos will explain what a pistol brace looks like and how it is used:

A $200 fee is required to make the new SBR legal. Reason points out that it isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

What about the 24 states which prohibit short-barreled firearms possession unless they are registered with the federal government? Gun owners living in these states will need to comply with ATF’s new registration requirements. This will provide evidence that they have not violated the laws.

I have mixed feelings about pistol braces. In fact, I can see how some nitwit from the AFT decided that a pistol equipped with a brace was equivalent to a pistol fitted with a buttstock under the National Firearms Act of 1935 despite ATF’s prior ruling. If anyone questions me about why someone needs one, I’d gladly quote Kurt Schlichter: “Because you f***ing you, that’s why.”

Fresh from his victory in the Fifth Circuit against Trump’s bump stock ban (Bumpstock Ban Overturned By the Fifth Circuit Setting Up a Supreme Court Battle), Attorney General Ken Paxton decided to pursue the pistol brace rule as well.

A number of gun owners and Second Amendment organizations filed lawsuits against the ban issued by the Biden administration. In North Dakota, more than 20 Republican-led States filed a lawsuit. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and two gun rights groups separately sued in a federal Texas court.

Paxton now moves his case forward by filing a motion for preliminary injunction on Thursday. This is to block the law from being applied while the litigation continues. Paxton argues that the regulation will make millions of law-abiding Americans criminals if they have a stabilizer brace or pistol after May 31. This includes those who want to register the accessory with ATF. The ATF processing backlog makes it impossible that gun owners will meet registration deadlines.

Paxton claims the regulation is inconsistent with the Second Amendment rights of citizens. It is also unconstitutional to tax them for exercising them. Texas’ top lawyer stresses that 10 million braces or more have been sold since their introduction a little over ten years ago. This makes them rare and therefore protected under the Second Amendment.

Paxton’s motion focuses on the same thing as the North Dakota lawsuit filed by his sister states. To legally qualify for a rifle, the gun must have been designed to fire from the shoulder. The regulation of Biden administration classified guns as rifles if they can be fired from either the shoulder or the shoulder.

According to the Texas attorney general, ATF exceeded its authority when it redefined “rifle”, in its stabilizing brace regulation. It is also arbitrary, capricious, and unconstitutionally vague. The six-factor analysis provides little guidance for ordinary Americans about whether they will be deemed felons if they continue to possess the accessory.

Paxton provides a solid legal analysis. It is likely that an injunction will soon be issued in either the Texas case, which was presided over by Trump appointee Drew Tipton or the North Dakota case where George W. Bush appointee Daniel L. Hovland has before it a similar motion.

The old boiling-the-frog tactic is what is really at play here. To avoid legal challenges, they are targeting accessories to weapons rather than weapons and to get gun owners to accept the ATF’s regulation of those items. There is more to this than just desensitizing gun owners to ATF bullying. The ATF is now aggressive in defining weapons. They claimed that the bump stock made a semi-automatic rifle an automatic. They are declaring, with the pistol brace rule that a pistol can, if you look closely enough, be a rifle. Both rules have the effect of encouraging people to ignore them, and then hammer gun owners with federal felonies.

Paxton will be appearing in court in a federal district that is friendly to him and will likely prevail. If the ATF defends the rule, it will be headed to the Supreme Court along with the bump stock case. The Second Amendment is in favor of Paxton and “Chevron Deference”, the legal doctrine that states courts should defer executive agency interpretations.