Story by By FARNOUSH AMIRI and LINDSAY WHITEHURST
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans passed a resolution that would repeal a Biden administration rule tightening federal regulations on stabilizing braces for firearms, an accessory that has been used in several mass shootings in the U.S. over the last decade.
The resolution passed 219-210 nearly on party lines and after a contentious floor debate where Republicans accused the administration of “executive overreach” and Democrats condemned a bill they said would “help kill people.” Two Democrats voted in support and two Republicans voted against it.
The resolution, which was introduced by Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., will now go to the Senate, which could take up the measure as soon as this week. Should it pass, President Joe Biden has promised a veto. Overriding a presidential veto would require two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
The new rule issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in January treats guns with the accessories like short-barreled rifles, a weapon that is like a sawed-off shotgun and has been heavily regulated since the 1930s.
The regulation, which went into effect June 1, was one of several steps Biden announced in 2021 after a man using a stabilizing brace killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. A stabilizing brace was also used in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that left nine people dead in 2019 and most recently in a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.
Stabilizing braces transform a pistol into a weapon that’s powerful and easy to conceal, Attorney General Merrick Garland said when he announced the rule. Originally developed for disabled veterans, gun-control groups have said the accessories have became a loophole exploited by gunmakers to make weapons more deadly.
Since taking effect earlier this month, the rule requires anyone who has a gun with an arm-stabilizing brace to register the weapon with the federal government and pay a fee, or remove the brace from their weapons.
Republicans employed the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recently enacted executive branch regulations, to try and nullify the new rule that they claim has turned millions of gun owners into felons.
“This rule doesn’t just infringe upon Americans’ Second Amendment liberties. It represents a dangerous government overreach by the administration,” Clyde said during debate Tuesday. “Congress maintains sole legislative authority, not government agencies, not the executive branch.”
Several lawsuits have been filed against the regulations by gun owners and state attorneys general. They say it violates Second Amendment protections by requiring millions of people to alter or register their weapons. In some cases, judges have recently agreed to temporarily block enforcement of the rule for the plaintiffs in a setback for the Biden administration.
House Democrats defended the rule on Tuesday, saying it could save lives.
“How many more mass shootings need to happen, how many more kids need to die before my Republican colleagues pull their heads out of the sand and realize that the NRA money is not worth the damage that’s been done to our country,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
The main sponsor for the measure, Clyde, is a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and the owner of a gun store in his district in Georgia. His proposal to overturn the ATF rule first came to the House Judiciary Committee in late March for markup. But House Republicans postponed debate of the measure after a gunman used a weapon with a stabilizing brace to fatally shoot three children and three adults at an elementary school in Nashville, Tenn.
Last week, Clyde claimed GOP leadership had blocked his resolution from reaching the floor as retribution for his no vote on a bipartisan agreement to lift the debt ceiling, which leaders denied.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said he and Rep. Tom Emmer, the GOP’s chief vote-counter, had been working intensely to ensure enough support to pass the legislation in the narrowly divided House.
“We’ve been moving people every week on this bill,” Scalise said. “It has not been easy.”