FPC Updates Complaint in Pistol Brace Ban Suit

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The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) recently filed an expanded complaint in their US District court case challenging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) new pistol brace ban. The complaint strikes a powerful blow at the ATF’s new rule.

As recently reported by News2A, in January, the ATF released its new rule that arbitrarily reclassifies millions of legally-owned pistols with braces attached as “short-barreled rifles”. As a result, owners must register, modify, or destroy their firearms in order to be in lawful compliance.

On January 31, The FPC filed suit against the Federal Government in a case called Mock v. Garland, which challenged the ATF’s actions, widely acknowledged to be beyond the scope of their authority. At its core, the suit challenges the ATF’s ability to regulate “braced pistols” as “short barreled rifles” as well as wide-ranging Second Amendment violations. The lawsuit seeks immediate declaratory and injunctive relief.

Setting the context for their argument, the brief quotes Bruen asserting that the Second Amendment was never intended to only protect old technology: 

“That technology and manufacturing have evolved since the Founding does not alter the fundamental constitutional backdrop. ‘Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, . . . the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.’ “

The brief also makes the argument that the ATF’s perceived nuances of different types of firearms are irrelevant with regard to the Second Amendment:

“There is no constitutionally relevant difference between a “braced pistol” or “short-barreled rifle” and a common pistol, shotgun, and rifle. While some exterior physical attributes may differ—the number and/or location of stocks/grips, different barrel lengths, etc.—they are, in all relevant respects, the same. ”

Plaintiffs also make the argument that while there are hundreds of thousands of tasers and stun guns in the hands of private citizens, there are also more than 533,000 short barrelled rifles that are legally owned, furthering the “common use” defense.

Under current law, the criteria to ban a weapon is that it must be “dangerous and unusual”. The complaint notes that if braced pistols are classified as short-barreled rifles, then there are over 3,000,000, “owned by law-abiding individuals for lawful purposes.” 

Making the argument from the other side of the criteria, the brief states, “Moreover, even Arms that are not “in common use” cannot be banned so long as they are no more dangerous than arms that are in common use.” 

The most significant point in the updated complaint illustrates a conundrum into which the ATF has inadvertently placed itself by issuing the new rule:

“Only one of two things can be true. If the firearms at issue in the Final Rule are “pistols” or “handguns,” then the Agencies’ are acting outside their authority in treating them as “rifles,” (Count I) and have violated several provisions of the APA (Counts II–III) and the United States Constitution (Counts IV-VIII) in promulgating the Final Rule. Alternatively, if the firearms at issue in the Final Rule are “short-barreled rifles,” then those rifles are commonly possessed by law-abiding individuals for lawful purposes, the Agencies’ have admitted they are in common use, and, under the Supreme Court’s own analysis, those rifles cannot be regulated outside of the Founding Era’s history of acceptable regulation and their modern analogues. ”

News2A will continue to monitor this story and report as it develops.

Read the updated Mock v. Garland complaint here.

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