17 Jan In-the-News Update [Issue: 2nd Amendment]
Many months following the announcement by the ATF that they would be revising the rules on the regulation of stabilizing pistol braces, the bureau has at last unveiled their finalized rule changes.
For those who do not know, a stabilizing pistol brace is a detachable component that can be added to an AR-pattern “pistol” (or other compatible firearm type) in place of a stock to help stabilize the weapon while firing one-handed. Initially, pistol braces were sold on the market to allow disabled or handicapped enthusiasts to be able to enjoy shooting sports by facilitating one-handed firing of their weapon should they have an appendage-related disability.
For many AR-15 (and other rifle) owners, stabilizing braces became a sort of stand-in for an adjustable stock on rifles with barrels shorter than 16 inches, that would otherwise be considered short-barreled rifles (SBRs) under the National Firearms Act (NFA – 1934). According to the NFA, SBRs must be registered with the ATF, a $200 tax stamp be paid, and many months of waiting for approval endured before possession and ownership is legal. Once stabilizing braces came onto the scene, which despite their resemblance to stocks, are not categorized as stocks by the ATF, the bureau found it necessary to reclassify rifles with barrels shorter than 16 inches, but that are also stockless or equipped with a stabilizing brace as “pistols”. For many years now, the ATF has gone back and forth clarifying and then further convoluting their rules on whether a braced “pistol” was legally allowed to be fired from the shoulder, since that would therefore replicate the function of a stock.
The fact that so many law-abiding citizens have been getting away with possessing short-barreled rifles equipped with stabilizing braces, under the classification of being “pistols,” has been irritating the ATF’s tyrannical nature for far too long. Thus, they once again sought to unilaterally, and without a legislative act of Congress, change the legal rules governing arms ownership. With the newly unveiled final rule, “gun owners who possess braced firearms will have 120 days to destroy, reconfigure, register, turn in their firearms to ATF, or face NFA violations which include $250,000 in fines and a hefty prison sentence.” So, once that 120-day grace period has expired, anyone remaining who has not complied will be turned into a felon overnight.
The hilarious part of this is the logistical behemoth that such a bulk registration would entail. With a history of failing to meet estimated wait-time benchmarks, the ATF regularly averages 300-400 day wait times for NFA item registration. The bureau has estimated that there could be as many as 40 million braced firearms in the country that will need to be registered within the next 120 days. You do the math and see if that seems plausible for a dysfunctional organization such as the ATF.
This week happened to coincide with the annual NSSF-sponsored SHOT Show, which is the largest firearms industry trade show in the country. SHOT Show hosts booths for companies in the industry to display and market their latest products and innovations, many of which are a preview of the year to come. It just so happens that the ATF also mans a booth at SHOT Show every year. With the newly announced pistol brace rules being a hot topic of conversation amongst gun enthusiasts and industry professionals alike, a fascinating observation was made at the Gun Owners of America (GOA) booth this year between a GOA attorney and social media personality, Tactical Mack, about how the new rule, combined with the ATFs logistical ineptitude could end up leading those who comply with the SBR registrations into a legal trap.