- Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of ATF's pistol brace rule
- ATF claims the rule is interpretive, but court challenges this
- Discussion on the creation of the rule and its broad and subjective criteria
- Debate on the Second Amendment implications and recent Supreme Court ruling
- Questions on the type of relief or injunction the court should grant
The Fifth Circuit recently heard oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the ATF's pistol brace rule. In the case, Mock v. Garland, a three-judge panel previously issued an injunction and clarification in favor of the plaintiffs, which included Maximum Defense, individual plaintiffs, and the FPC. This injunction also influenced similar protections in the Geo Group and SAF lawsuits, with the NRA seeking to join in as well.
During the oral arguments, the judges questioned the ATF's authority to create this rule. The ATF claimed that the rule is purely interpretive and that braced pistols have always been considered SBRs (short-barreled rifles) under the NFA (National Firearms Act). However, the court challenged this statement, questioning why the ATF needed to create a new rule and seek public input if the interpretation had always been the case. The judges suggested that the ATF's intention was to legislate and create new laws, rather than just interpret existing ones.
Another point of contention was the creation of the rule itself. Initially, the ATF proposed a rulemaking that included a worksheet with specific criteria for determining if a firearm should be considered an SBR. However, due to opposition, the ATF abandoned the worksheet and created a broader and more subjective standard. The lawsuit questions whether this shift violated the APA's (Administrative Procedure Act) procedures and if the final rule was a logical outgrowth of the proposed rule. The court noted that the final rule appeared to be even broader and more subjective than the original worksheet.
The judges also raised concerns about prior ATF letters that stated pistols with braces attached could not be considered SBRs. The ATF's response was that it depends on the specific bracing. However, it was clear that the current rule would classify almost all braced pistols as SBRs. The court also discussed the rule of law and the recent Cargill decision on bump stocks, with the ATF opposing the use of the rule of law.
The Second Amendment's implications were also debated. The pro-gun side argued that braced pistols are protected arms under the Second Amendment and not dangerous and unusual items, despite the ATF's claims. The court pushed back on the ATF's argument that braced pistols are more dangerous and unusual due to increased accuracy, pointing out that braces make the firearms less concealable.
Lastly, the judges questioned what type of relief or injunction should be granted. The plaintiffs' attorneys argued for a nationwide injunction to protect more people and avoid the current situation where only members of certain organizations are covered. The ATF opposed a nationwide injunction and suggested vacating the current injunction and sending the case back to the district court.
In conclusion, the oral arguments in the Fifth Circuit regarding the ATF's pistol brace rule showed a fair but undecided panel. While the judges questioned the ATF's authority and procedural violations, it remains uncertain what the final decision will be. It is expected that a limited injunction may be granted, but a nationwide injunction is less likely. The outcome will have significant implications for the Second Amendment rights of firearm owners.