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Lawsuits & Litigation

Texas Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against New Biden Administration Weapons Rule

— February 11, 2023

The lawsuit alleges that a new A.T.F. rule defining handguns with stabilizing braces as a form of short-barreled rifle could have massive implications for millions of Americans.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden, alleging that an amended weapons rule violates Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

According to The Texas Tribune, Paxton partnered with Gun Owners of America, a firearms advocacy organization, to file the lawsuit, which claims that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives erroneously defines a certain category of guns with so-called “stabilizing braces.”

The Tribune writes that, last month, the U.S. Department of Justice amended the A.T.F.’s definition for firearms equipped with stabilizing braces, a form of attachment originally designed for veterans with disabilities.

Under the A.T.F.’s new rule, firearms—including pistols—attached with a rearward stabilizing brace will be classified as rifles or “short-barreled rifles,” which are subject to stricter regulations than guns without such accessories.

Short-barreled rifles, notes the Montana Attorney General’s Office, are subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act.

Under the National Firearms Act, owners of short-barreled rifles must apply for an A.T.F. permit and pay a special tax to legally retain their weapons.

Additionally, any future transactions—including the purchase, sale, or transfer of such affected firearms—may be restricted.

Paxton and the Gun Owners of America are being supported by a multi-state coalition of other conservative attorneys general, which includes Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.

A 2013 image of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Alice Linahan Voices Empower. (CCA-BY-2.0).

In a press release, Knudsen said that millions of Americans could be face serious consequences—including the possibility of felony convictions—if they fail to register their stabilizing brace-containing firearms with the federal government.

“This rule is simply a continuation of President Biden and his ATF puppet Steve Dettelbach’s assault on the gun rights of law-abiding Montanans. Under their gun control regime, millions of Americans owning these simple accessories now have a choice: register them with the ATF with a ridiculous fee or face federal criminal charges,” Knudsen said in a statement. “This rule is flagrantly unconstitutional. Attaching a common pistol-stabilizing brace does not magically transform a pistol into a federally regulated short-barreled rifle.”

The multi-state lawsuit suggests that the Biden administration’s rule change represents a stark divergence from the A.T.F.’s longstanding stance on stabilizing braces.

In the past, the bureau purportedly said that A.T.F. had no plans to alter the definition of “short-barreled rifles” to include handguns with stabilizing braces.

“ATF repeatedly issued letter rulings assuring manufacturers and the public that attaching a stabilizing brace would not alter the statutory or regulatory classification of a pistol or other firearm. As a result, millions of Americans have for years lawfully purchased stabilizing braces and pistols equipped with stabilizing braces from authorized, legitimate manufacturers with ATF’s full knowledge and express approval,” the lawsuit alleges.

Paxton, who has called the reform “dangerous and unconstitutional,” said that he hopes the lawsuit will ensure that the rule is “never allowed to take effect.”

“This is yet another attempt by the Biden administration to create a workaround to the U.S. Constitution and expand gun registration in America,” Paxton said in a statement. “There is absolutely no legal basis for ATF’s haphazard decision to try to change the long-standing classification for stabilizing braces, force registration on Americans, and then throw them in jail for ten years if they don’t quickly comply.“


Attorney General Knudsen Files Lawsuit Against Biden Administration’s Unlawful Pistol Brace Rule

Biden rule reclassifying some pistols as short-barreled rifles draws Texas lawsuit

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