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ATF Rule Reclassifying Firearms with “Stabilizing Braces” Provokes Outrage, Litigation

The Powder Keg

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On January 13, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) ruling was signed off by the Attorney General, sparking a firestorm of controversy. The rule, stating that pistols or handguns equipped with “stabilizing braces” would now be classified along with short-barreled rifles, took effect on January 31. 

The Shockwave

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This seemingly innocuous bureaucratic move has alarming consequences, effectively turning millions of unsuspecting gun owners into potential felons. These “stabilizing braces,” commonly used by elderly and disabled groups to aid in handling pistols or handguns, are now legally contentious. The penalties of being labeled as “felons” could be disastrous, ranging from hefty fines to imprisonment. 

Treading on Thin Ice

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In the ATF’s view, gun owners have a few options to avoid this unfortunate label: remove the contentious “stabilizing brace” from their firearm, surrender the weapon to an ATF office, or destroy it completely. To complicate matters, firearms with “stabilizing braces” now classified as short-barreled rifles had to be registered before the May 31 deadline.

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The Counteroffensive

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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, along with 26 other state attorneys general, are not taking this ruling sitting down. They are challenging the ATF’s ruling, decrying it as an assault on law-abiding gun owners. Morrisey voiced his concerns, noting that such laws are ambiguous and extend their reach into categories of guns that should not be deemed illegal.

The Salvo

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Morrisey and his counterparts are seeking the attention of the House Speaker and Congress members, aiming to overturn the ATF’s ruling. He pointed out that the Biden administration is making things harder for law-abiding citizens, with seemingly acceptable actions now thrown into questionable territory. Morrisey believes that this move is effectively a deterrent, making firearm ownership more costly.

The Showdown

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As it stands, West Virginia and 26 other states have launched a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s decision, hoping to revert the contentious ruling. Morrisey had also hoped that the Congressional Review Act might have enabled a congressional resolution of disapproval to invalidate the rule by the May 31 deadline. Although this opportunity has passed, the fight is far from over. 

Morrisey described the potential damage to law-abiding firearm owners as “egregious,” highlighting the high stakes and intense emotions surrounding this ongoing battle. The verdict of this lawsuit could have significant implications for gun ownership laws and regulations, making it a case to keep a close eye on.

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