The House Judiciary Committee advanced a joint resolution Thursday that would block a Biden administration rule to strengthen regulations on firearms with stabilizing braces.
The 23-15 vote along party lines on the measure is the latest confrontation between GOP lawmakers and the administration over actions to address gun violence and mass shootings.
The rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would require gun owners before June to register pistols with stabilizing braces that turn them into short-barreled rifles. Other options for gun owners include surrendering the firearm or taking off the stabilizing brace from the firearm.
House Republicans call the regulation an overreach, and have said the ATF has given conflicting messages in the past on the topic and the rule will expose unknowing gun owners to criminal liability.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie said during a markup that the device was designed to help people with disabilities stabilize a pistol.
“It’s a plastic accessory. This thing can’t shoot a bullet. It doesn’t function like a gun. It is a plastic accessory,” Massie said.
The committee originally planned a vote on the stabilizing brace resolution last month. A shooter at a private school in Nashville killed three 9-year-old children and three adults the day before, and the committee postponed the markup.
Democrats pointed to that delay to argue against the resolution and said Republicans were trying to roll back a rule that’s meant to protect the public from dangerous weapons.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the gun industry, through selling stabilizing braces, found a new way to circumvent the restrictions in the National Firearms Act. The accessory allows for a pistol to be fired from the shoulder, turning it into a short-barreled rifle that is concealable, Nadler said.
Texas Republican Rep. Wesley Hunt said some use the AR-15 as a scapegoat to pursue more restrictions.
“You want to go after the AR-15 first to then eventually get to the pistol, to disarm Americans to infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” Hunt said. “I want you to know something. It ain’t the gun, it’s the homicidal maniac.”
At a separate House hearing Tuesday, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said the agency had been inconsistent in the past on the issue, but he defended the rollout of the rule and argued there were changes to the products in the marketplace.
“We went back and forth with the industry on what qualified something to be a short-barreled rifle. The rule is aimed at clarifying that,” Dettelbach told lawmakers on the House Appropriations subcommittee.