Republican states sue Biden administration over new pistol brace rules

Firearms Unknown as Biden considers legislation restricting "ghost guns\
An "FU" custom upper receiver for an AR-15 style rifle is displayed for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, California, U.S., April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Bing Guan

Feb 9 (Reuters) - More than 20 Republican-led states, along with gun rights groups and a disabled Army veteran, on Thursday sued the Biden administration over a new rule restricting sales of gun accessories known as pistol braces.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in North Dakota, the states said that the rule finalized earlier this year by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.

Pistol braces were first marketed in 2012 as a way of attaching a pistol to the shooter's forearm, stabilizing it and making it easier to use for disabled people. However, many users found that the braces could also be placed against the shoulder, like the stock on a rifle.

The new rule, finalized on Jan. 31, classifies guns with braces that are designed to allow shooting from the shoulder as short-barrel rifles. Such rifles are subject to special registration, longer waiting periods for purchase, and higher taxes because they are potentially more dangerous than handguns.

The agency, in announcing the rule, said it did not apply to braces "objectively designed and intended ... for use by individuals with disabilities."

The states said in their lawsuit, however, that the rule in practice could affect anyone who uses a brace.

"We should not be making it harder for senior citizens and people with disabilities - and many disabled veterans - to defend themselves," West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the effort, said in a statement.

ATF declined to comment on Thursday.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a similar, separate lawsuit in federal court in Texas on Thursday. A group of veterans also filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in federal court in Texas earlier this month.

Democratic President Joe Biden has championed tougher gun control measures, and last year signed a national gun safety law.

Gun control opponents won a major victory last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects individuals' right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense, significantly expanding gun rights nationwide. Since then, several state gun control measures have been struck down by courts.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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Brendan Pierson reports on product liability litigation and on all areas of health care law. He can be reached at