DOJ Asks More Time to Process Over 211K Comments on Proposed Arm Brace Rule

Nine months after the Second Amendment Foundation sued the Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in federal court over ATF’s flip on how it regulates stabilizing braces on pistols, the DOJ and SAF jointly asked for a continuation of a stay in the legal action to allow processing of more than 211,000 public comments on a proposed rule on “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached Stabilizing Braces.”

The process is expected to require more than four months.

Under the original proposal, guns with stabilizing braces would suddenly be regulated under the National Firearms Act the same as short-barreled rifles. That would require a special license and $200 fee for each firearm fitted with a brace.  Without the special license and fee, guns fitted with the stabilizing braces would be illegal to own.

Back on May 4, the court granted an agreed motion for a stay, which was extended on June 15, after the defendants published the proposed rule in the Federal Register seeking public comment. The comment period was 90 days, during which time the agency was flooded with comments.

According to a Joint Status Report filed with the court, it will take more than 120 days for the DOJ to process all the responses. All parties agreed to the delay, according to SAF and have requested that they be allowed to file another Joint Status Report on or before Jan. 19, 2022.

“Depending upon the DOJ’s final ruling,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb, “SAF reserves the right to amend the court filing to include provisions of the new rule.”

Joining in the SAF lawsuit were Rainier Arms, LLC and two disabled private citizens, Samuel Walley and William Green.

In addition to DOJ and ATF, the lawsuit also named acting ATF Director Regina Lombardo and Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, in their official capacities. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The case is known as SAF et. al. v. BATFE, et. al.

When SAF filed the lawsuit, Gottlieb acknowledged, “There are several issues at play in this case. It concerns the failure of the agencies and its officials to abide by long-established and Congressionally-mandated rulemaking requirements, threatening rights protected by the Second Amendment. Another issue is the question whether the Executive Branch has the authority to re-define stabilizing braces without approval of Congress. This is especially important to disabled persons because these devices were originally developed to benefit shooters with physical disabilities.”

However, stabilizing braces are now used by people with and without disabilities and more than 2 million have been sold, the lawsuit estimated.

In late August, SAF reminded gun owners about the original Sept. 8 deadline for comments. At the time, Gottlieb warned, “ATF wants to reclassify millions of stabilizing brace-equipped pistols by making them subject to the National Firearms Act. If that happens, current owners of such pistols would need to register their guns and pay a $200 tax on each one, or turn it in to the ATF, or take one of several other undesirable options.”