5th Circuit Appeals Court Decides on Pistol Brace Rule

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Mock v. Garland, finding that the plaintiffs, FPCAC and FPC, are likely to win on the merits of their lawsuit challenging the ATF’s pistol brace rule and remanded the lawsuit to the district court with instructions to reconsider the other preliminary injunction factors within 60 days.

There are a number of lawsuits currently challenging the unconstitutional pistol brace rule, but this ruling is particularly favorable for a number of reasons.

“Said in its simplest terms, the Fifth Circuit just indicated that the Plaintiffs–Firearms Policy Coalition, Maxim Defense, and FPC’s individual members–are likely to defeat ATF’s pistol brace rule when the merits of this case are finally heard,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, FPCAF’s General Counsel and FPC’s counsel in this case. “This is a huge win for peaceable gun owners across the nation, a huge win for FPC’s members, and yet another massive defeat for ATF and this administration’s gun control agenda.”

The court’s decision specifically calls out a side-stepping maneuver used by the ATF in which the final rule dramatically differs from the proposed rule floated to the public for comment. The proposed rule received hundreds of thousands of negative comments.

The ATF incorrectly maintains that the Final Rule is merely interpretive, not legislative, and thus not subject to the logical-outgrowth test,” writes Judge Smith in the Court’s opinion. “The Final Rule affects individual rights, speaks with the force of law, and significantly implicates private interests. Thus, it is legislative in character. Then, because the Final Rule bears almost no resemblance in manner or kind to the Proposed Rule, the Final Rule fails the logical-outgrowth test and violates the APA.

The Final Rule dispensed with the points-based approach of the Proposed Rule and instituted a six-factor balancing test that factored criteria as subjective as the weight of the firearm with the stabilizing brace attached to the prevalence of YouTubers’ demonstrating the likely use of the weapon.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the decision, though, is Judge Willett’s separate and concurring opinion in which he points out very obvious, publicly held opinions on firearms safety when it comes to brace accessories:

Rearward attachments, besides making a pistol less concealable, improve a pistol’s stability, and thus a user’s accuracy. Accuracy, in turn, promotes safety. Even for attachments that convert a pistol into a rifle under the statutes, ATF has not identified any historical tradition of requiring ordinary citizens to endure a lengthy, costly, and discretionary approval process just to use accessories that make an otherwise lawful weapon safer.

The Court maintained the preliminary injunction pending appeal for 60 days from the date of the decision, or once the district court rules on a preliminary injunction, whichever occurs first. The district court is directed to rule within 60 days.

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