The ATF can’t enforce its pistol-brace ban against Texas state employees and Gun Owners of America (GOA) members.
That’s the ruling a federal judge handed down just hours before the ban is set to go into effect. On Wednesday, Judge Drew B. Tipton issued a preliminary injunction against the ban. He found the pistol-brace ban is likely unconstitutional, and should be blocked as the case against it moves forward.
“Defendants are ENJOINED from enforcing the Final Rule against (1) the private Plaintiffs in this case, including its current members and their resident family members, and (2) individuals employed directly by the State of Texas or its agencies,” Judge Tipon wrote in Texas v. ATF.
The injunction is the third issued against the ban this month and the second issued on Wednesday, as the ban is set to go into effect on Thursday. It substantially expands the number of gun owners who will be immune from enforcement as the case proceeds on the merits. That makes it more difficult for the ATF to enforce the ban, which is estimated to affect millions of firearms.
The ban was created at the request of President Joe Biden as part of his effort to unilaterally impose new gun restrictions. It reclassifies most firearms that have barrels shorter than 16 inches and are equipped with pistol braces, designed to strap to a shooter’s forearm and stabilize the gun, as short-barrel rifles. That would subject them to regulations under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), which requires they be registered with the ATF among other things.
Under the rule, owners of the braced guns had to either register, destroy, dismantle, or turn in the affected guns in order to avoid potential federal felony charges. The registration deadline was Wednesday, the same day the Texas v. ATF injunction was issued.
The injunction is heavily influenced by one issued by a Fifth Panel Court of Appeals panel earlier this month in Mock v. Garland. That ruling enjoined the ATF from enforcing its rule against members of the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and customers of Maxim Defense. Another federal judge issued an almost identical injunction protecting members of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) in SAF v. ATF.
Tipton, appointed to the Southern District of Texas by Donald Trump in 2020, noted the main difference in his case was the involvement of Texas.
“Notably, one substantial difference between Mock and the case pending before this Court is that this case includes a non-private plaintiff—the State of Texas,” he wrote. “To determine whether Texas is entitled to injunctive relief, the Court must first decide whether Texas has satisfied Article III standing, and if so, whether Texas has made a sufficient showing of irreparable harm.”
He rejected several of the state’s arguments, but ultimately determined the filing costs to comply with the rule represented irreparable harm. He extended the injunction to protect employees of the state.
“[T]he Court holds that Texas has established Article III standing and has sufficiently shown that it will suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the Final Rule,” Judge Tipton wrote.
However, he rejected requests by the state to extend the injunction to everyone living inside its borders. Similarly, he rejected GOA’s request to block ATF from enforcing the ban against all gun owners nationwide. The Fifth Circuit panel had rejected a similar request in Mock v. Garland.
But GOA said the ruling represents a major win in the group’s fight against the pistol-brace ban.
“We are incredibly grateful to Judge Tipton for hearing the pleas of our members who were facing serious prosecution simply for owning a piece of plastic – all because of an arbitrary reclassification by the ATF,” Erich Pratt, the group’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “GOA and our millions of members nationwide will continue to fight back against this rogue anti-gun administration at every turn in defense of our rights.”
Judge Tipton ruled the injunction will remain in effect until the Fifth Circuit rules on the merit in Mock v. Garland. The panel has set June 29th as the beginning date for an expedited hearing in the case.