Dear Speaker McCarthy, Leaders Schumer and McConnell, and Leaders Jeffries and Scalise,
Congress must repeal the unconstitutional and discriminatory pistol brace ban by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that hurts our nation’s disabled population, especially America’s disabled veterans who sacrificed their bodies to defend our nation. Therefore, we, the undersigned leaders and organizations representing veterans, urge Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the ATF rule immediately.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are over “4.9 million veterans, or 27 percent of all veterans, [with] a service-connected disability.”[i] And according to one national firearm ownership survey, “[n]early half of all veterans own one or more firearms.” We write to you today on behalf of these disabled, gun owning veterans and also for those active-duty servicemen and women who will put their lives and limbs on the line for our nation in the decades to come. These veterans deserve to have their Second Amendment rights protected!
For many disabled veterans, pistol braces may be the only means to safely and effectively exercise the right to keep and bear arms and to defend themselves and their loved ones. Alex Bosco of SB Tactical first invented the pistol stabilizing brace for his friend—a wounded veteran. According to his testimony to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Accountability Committees:
One day at the range, an over-eager range officer told one of my range buddies, a wounded veteran, that he was not carefully firing his weapon. The range officer said that because (in his opinion) my friend was firing erratically, he had to bench his pistol from the seated position. Because of the wounds my friend had received in service of his country, the range officer’s suggestion made me angry, first because I did not agree that my friend was shooting in a dangerous manner, and second, because I thought it unconscionable that he or anyone like him should be denied the opportunity to safely use a firearm due to wounds received in service of the United States. This experience led to the invention of the pistol stabilizing brace.[ii]
Stabilizing braces were first marketed to other disabled veterans after the design was approved by ATF in 2012.[iii] Since then, millions of gun owners—including the disabled veterans we represent today—have legally purchased braced pistols with FBI background checks and with the approval of the federal government.
But now, disabled veterans who want to purchase new braced pistols for self-defense will be hindered from doing so under a newly implemented rule ATF 2021R-08F, entitled Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached “Stabilizing Braces.”[iv] And veterans who wish to keep their pre-existing pistol braces are not grandfathered automatically.
Recently, Gun Owners of America and several other organizations secured preliminary injunctions halting the ATF’s enforcement of this ban against millions of its members.[v] But all citizens, including wounded veterans, who own America’s 40,000,000 braced pistols deserve protection, regardless of whether they are members of any particular group. Indeed, the Second Amendment applies to the people—not just special protected classes. It is Congress’ duty to step in where the courts have not and grant nationwide protection to the People by reversing this ATF rule.
After reversing nearly a decade of guidance in January, ATF’s mere 120-day grace period for disabled pistol brace owners ended on May 31st, 2023. If a veteran has not (1) destroyed their pistol, (2) turned it over to the federal government, (3) registered it with the ATF, (4) made them handicap-inaccessible or (5) joined Gun Owners of America or one of the other groups that has received an injunction for its members, then they are subject to jail time and arrest.[vi] Indeed, a veteran who brings a braced firearm to the gun range after June 1st could be subject to arrest by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, fined up to $250,000, and jailed for up to 10 years for using her or his braced pistol.[vii]
ATF cannot simply restrict access to pistols with attached stabilizing braces for the entire disabled population—especially veterans. According to the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, every American has an individual right to keep a handgun inside the home.[viii] And a federal judge in the Seventh Circuit recently affirmed that:
[B]races are needed by certain individuals with disabilities to operate a firearm. Thus, arm braces are an integral part of the meaningful exercise of Second Amendment rights for such individuals and can also be considered an “arm.” … It is uncontroverted that law-abiding members of society, including the elderly, infirmed, and disabled, have the constitutional right to arm themselves for self-defense.[ix]
Protect the right of those who have served the People to keep their firearms. Oppose this executive overreach by the ATF. Stand up for wounded veterans and the constitutionally protected rights they fought to protect.
We the undersigned veteran organizations and leaders call for the immediate and complete repeal of ATF pistol brace ban that hurts our nation’s veterans.
Dick Anthony Heller
U.S. Army, Airborne, 49 Jumps E-4
Plaintiff in D.C. v. Heller
Sgt. U.S. Army
Original Brace Representative
SSG, U.S. Marines
Military Arms Channel
E4, U.S. National Guard
View the 6,721+ Signatures Here
[ii] Bosco. “Statement of Alex Bosco, Statement of Alex Bosco Hearing on ‘ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?’”. House Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Oversight and Accountability. March 23rd, 2023. 3.
[iii] Ibid. 8.
[iv] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. “Factoring Criteria For Firearms With Attached Stabilizing Braces”. 2023.
[v] See Texas v. Garland. Mock v. Garland. SAF v. ATF.
[vi] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Affected Parties and their Options Under the Stabilizing Brace Final Rule. Last Reviewed March 23, 2023.
[vii] Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. What are the consequences if I choose not to register my firearm with a “stabilizing brace,” which is a short-barreled rifle (SBR), and keep it?. Last Reviewed March 23, 2023.
[ix] District Judge McGlynn. Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois et al. v. Pritzker et al.. April 28th, 2023. 19-20. 27.