A resolution to overturn President Joe Biden’s rule registering guns equipped with pistol braces will now head to the Senate.
The House of Representatives passed H.J. Resolution 44 on Tuesday by a vote of 219 to 210. The resolution would undo a rule created by the ATF at the request of President Biden that affects millions of gun owners and went into effect at the beginning of the month. The vote was mainly along party lines, with all but two Republicans voting for it and all but two Democrats voting against it.
“By passing H.J.Res. 44 today, the House has sent a resounding message to both the judicial system and the nation that it firmly rejects the ATF’s unconstitutional rule and executive overreach, unapologetically defends service-disabled veterans’ unalienable right to keep and bear arms, and refuses to back down in the fight to protect all Americans’ Second Amendment liberties,” Representative Andrew Clyde (R., Ga.) told The Reload.
The House passing the resolution puts the ball in the Senate’s court now, where it will receive a vote as part of the process under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to repeal any federal rulemaking it disagrees with shortly after it was enacted. The resolution faces an uphill, but not impossible, battle in the nearly-evenly-divided Senate, where it will likely need all Republicans and two Democrats to vote in its favor for it to pass. From there, President Biden has already said he would veto it.
“Even though Congressional Republicans should take additional action to keep these and other dangerous weapons off our streets, they are instead pushing a resolution to reverse this rule and the progress we have made to enforce existing statutory requirements on these dangerous weapons,” the White House said in a statement. “If H.J. Res. 44 were presented to the President, he would veto it.”
Republicans would need to find an additional ten Democratic votes to override his veto–an unlikely feat.
Still, the resolution passing the House is a messaging win for supporters. If they can get it through the Senate as well, it would represent one of the few times Republicans have been able to carry some of their top legislative priorities to Biden’s desk–if not past it.
Since the ATF announced the rule earlier this year, eliminating the brace ban has been a crucial fight for gun-rights advocates. It is also President Biden’s most aggressive executive action on guns. The rule reclassifies all guns with barrels less than 16 inches long and a pistol brace attached to them as short-barrel rifles or shotguns subject to the regulations of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). President Biden and other supporters of the rule argue the ban is justified by the appearance of braced guns in a handful of high-profile shootings.
“The rationale is clear: short-barreled rifles are more concealable than long guns, yet more dangerous and accurate at a distance than traditional pistols,” the White House said. “As a result of this industry innovation, in the past few years we have witnessed mass shooters – including those in Dayton, Ohio, and Boulder, Colorado – use these ‘brace’ devices on heavy pistols in order to inflict mass carnage.”
Gun-rights advocates argue the braces are merely plastic pieces that were developed to help disabled shooters stabilize some kinds of pistols, and the rule reclassifying them is beyond the power Congress has granted the ATF.
“Every day, millions of Americans — including many service-disabled veterans — rely on stabilizing braces to exercise their Second Amendment freedoms,” Rep. Clyde said. “Yet through the ATF’s rule, the Biden Administration is attempting to circumvent Congress’ sole legislative authority by using executive fiat to turn these law-abiding gun owners into criminals for simply attaching this beneficial brace to their firearm.”
That reclassification comes after a decade of the ATF telling gun owners that putting braces on those sorts of guns did not mean they would become NFA items because, unlike a stock, braces weren’t designed to be pressed against a shooter’s shoulder while firing. It means anyone who bought a braced gun during that period would now have to register it with the ATF, dismantle it, or destroy it. The ATF provided a four-month grace period where the $200 NFA tax was waived for those who registered their guns.
However, as The Reload first reported, few Americans have complied with the registration demand. The ATF said it had received about a quarter million registration applications by the end of the grace period. The agency estimated three to seven million braces are in circulation. The Congressional Research Service put the number even higher at 10 to 40 million.
That means the ATF has only seen somewhere between 0.6 percent and eight percent of braced guns registered.
One factor driving mass non-compliance may be the legal efforts to undo the brace ban. The ATF has already been enjoined from enforcing the prohibition against millions of Americans who are members of different gun-rights groups. A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued an injunction just days before the grace period expired that blocks enforcing the rule against Firearms Policy Coalition members or Maxim Defense customers. A second federal judge in the same circuit followed up by issuing one protecting Second Amendment Foundation members. A third did the same for members of Gun Owners of America.
Those groups have also seen an influx of new members since the injunctions came down, with the Second Amendment Foundation adding 20,000 new people to its rolls in a week.
Gun-rights activists celebrated the resolution’s passage as a win for the Constitution.
“It’s clear the Biden ATF violated the Bill of Rights with this executive action, with the goal of harassing as many law-abiding gun owners as they possibly could,” Aidan Johnston, Gun Owners of America director of federal affairs, said in a statement. “We will continue to push back in Congress and the Courts until this rule is sent to the scrapyard where it belongs.”
To put it lightly, their counterparts on the other side of the issue disagreed.
“SHAMEFUL: House Republicans voted to repeal ATF’s regulation on pistol braces, which make it easier for mass shooters to commit heinous acts of violence,” leading gun-control group Giffords tweeted. “They claim to care about enforcing laws on the books. But their actions prove otherwise.”
The Senate will now take up its own version of the resolution which Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy has introduced. Rep. Clyde called on them to move quickly and force President Biden to choose the outcome from there.
“It’s now time for the Senate to follow suit by swiftly passing H.J.Res. 44 — sending this essential legislation to the White House and forcing the President to choose between defending one of our greatest natural rights or intentionally attempting to disarm our nation and dismantle our Second Amendment freedoms,” he said.
But President Biden seems unlikely to make the choice Rep. Clyde would prefer.
“This Administration has no higher priority than keeping the American people safe, which is jeopardized with a vote in support of a resolution that makes it easier for mass shooters to obtain these deadly weapons,” the White House said.