For many years those of us who are part of the “gun community” have held strong opinions about how the ATF operates and what implications that has to not only gun owners, but the state of America as a whole. Recently, the ATF has used their “rule making” process to surpass Congress and completely re-write a definition found in the NFA (National Firearms Act). The definition we are talking about is that of Short Barreled Rifles or SBRs as they are commonly known.
A Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) is a shoulder-fired, rifled firearm, made from a rifle, with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or overall length of less than 26 inches, or a handgun fitted with a buttstock and a barrel shorter than 16 inches in length. Virtually saying that any firearm with a stock and barrel shorter than 16 inches is considered an SBR and thus falls under the prevue of the NFA and is subject to additional taxes and background checks. Thus implying that shorter firearms are more dangerous than longer firearms. However, pistols remain completely legal for purchase. Confusing isn’t it?
When a consumer purchases an SBR they cannot buy it and take it home that same day. They must purchase the firearm and pay in full. Once that has been done, the selling FFL must hold the firearm during the background check process which can take over a year to complete. The consumer must go get their fingerprints taken and placed onto two fingerprint cards, obtain 2 passport sized photos, fill out the ATF Form 4 and pay $200 to the Federal Government as a “tax” for the firearm. It’s at this point that the ATF receives the Form 4 packet and they begin their background check process. Contrary to popular belief the “requirements” for being approved for the tax stamp is no different than that used to determine if you are allowed to purchase a standard firearm; It is simply a deeper dive to ensure that the records are correct and that nothing is being overlooked. Essentially, if you can own a firearm you can own an SBR.
This process is extremely cumbersome, it costs a lot of money and as it was originally intended it discourages citizens from purchasing these types of weapons. Not to mention that you have to pay for something that you can’t even take home for upwards of a year or more, pay tax on that item, then pay additional tax on that item, then go pay for your fingerprints and photos, then wait for what feels like forever. And why? Because back in the early 1900’s the government felt adding a very high tax on those weapons being use by the prohibition era gangsters was their best avenue of discouraging the purchase, manufacture and use of those weapons.
Jump ahead 100 years to 2023 and the world has changed a lot. There are no more prohibition era gangsters roaming the cities and the technological advances in the gun industry are many. What we do have are many new devices and products that have been designed to enhance the shooting experience. One of those items is the “pistol stabilizing brace” or more commonly referred to as a “pistol brace” or just “brace”. But why would anyone want to brace a pistol? Good question.
The pistols that most people brace are not your average handgun, although that can be done as well. Over the last decade or so larger bodied pistols have really taken over the market. Something like an AR-15 pistol is much larger than a Glock 19, thus making it more difficult to shoot accurately. Many of you may then ask the reason for owning the AR15 pistol instead of the AR15 rifle. Well, sometimes you just need something that can be stored more easily, fit in a bag to travel or a myriad of other reasons. There are also caliber specific reasons why you may want to own a shorter barreled firearm, for example the 300 Blackout round was not designed to be fired from a 16 inch barrel, it was designed to stabilize and be accurate from a barrel shorter than 16 inches. Sure, you can get the 16 inch variant, but for those of us who love the intricacies of firearms we want our guns as they were intended for specific purposes and sometimes that means it should be a shorter barrel than 16 inches. The AR15 pistols are made in 100% accordance and compliance with the law and are truly classified as pistols as they do not meet the definition of a rifle by the ATFs own guidelines.
The brace was originally designed as a way for people to stabilize these larger bodied pistols, mainly with those who are handicapped or disabled in mind. As far back as 2012 the makers of the pistol brace, SB Tactical, began marketing a solution to the stability issues of these larger pistols in their originally released “Sig Brace”. The brace attaches to the firearm where the stock would normally be if the gun was a rifle. The brace is made of different material than a stock would be, its typically a soft rubber material that will flex to allow the user to hold it in as many different configurations as possible. Remember, this is meant to assist the shooter who has trouble stabilizing the larger pistol for whatever reason. The ATF reviewed the “Sig Brace” and subsequently approved them making a definite and clear statement that attaching a pistol brace to a firearm does not reclassify it as a rifle and that people are even allowed to shoulder the brace when necessary. This means that the ATF was sent the brace, explained how it would be used and they APPROVED the brace for sale on the market as nothing more than an accessory like a flashlight or optic, just something else you can put on your gun with no hoops to jump through.
The product was a huge success and SB Tactical grew exponentially over the next decade. They had an innovative new product which was reviewed and approved by the regulatory agency who’s job it was to determine these types of things. Subsequently SB Tactical began ramping up operations and over the next decade plus they have sold as many as 40 Million of these pistol braces. Pistol braces became a common use item and all was well in the world. People began buying up firearms with pistol stabilizing braces, based on the approval made by the ATF. Foreign manufacturers began manufacturing braced pistols for import, based on the approval made by the ATF. Collectors began spending big money buying these ATF approved firearms and adding them to their collection.
Fast forward to late 2022 when the ATF made the call that they have now changed their mind and they are now classifying braced pistols as SBRs. Never mind the fact that they had already reviewed and approved braces for this very purpose. Never mind the fact that based on their approval citizens have spent millions upon millions of dollars on these devices. And the ATF says that in order to stay compliant citizens must register these weapons as SBRs under the NFA thus creating a gun registry of as many as 40 Million firearms. Additionally, the ATF has determined that any foreign made pistol that has ever had a brace installed on it was done so out of 922r compliance. 922r is an ATF rule which applies only to imported rifles and which states that the rifle must have X amount of US made parts in order to be in compliance. Pistols were not subject to 922r and thus do not have the correct amount of US made parts installed on them. Thus, because the “short barreled rifle” was manufactured not in compliance with 922r that these “rifles” must be destroyed or turned into the ATF, there is no avenue to make them legal. Keep in mind, these foreign guns are often extremely collectible and expensive.
So, to be clear, the ATF had approved pistol braces over 10 years ago. Based on that approval around 40 Million of these devices have been manufactured and sold to US Consumers. Additionally, Millions upon Millions of dollars were spent on firearm investment and collecting based on the ATFs approval of pistol stabilizing braces. And now, over a decade later we are being told that they retroactively reverse their opinion and that anyone who doesn’t do exactly what they say will become a felon overnight. All of these guns need to be destroyed or registered and of course the ATF will not reimburse anyone for anything. And how are they doing all of this? They are bypassing Congress and simply reinterpreting their own rules, that’s how. This is the same exact thing they did with bump stocks, which was just recently overturned as unconstitutional. They didn’t like them so they got rid of them by any means necessary. They knew that changing the law though Congress would be a non-starter and a virtually impossible feat, never mind that it is required for them to do so if they wish to change the law in any way. Thus they are knowingly and intentionally bypassing Congress and are simply just doing whatever they want with no oversight. And what they are doing is infringing on the 2nd Amendment. If we’re being honest, they’re also infringing upon a number of other amendments as it relates to Government Overreach, States Rights and retroactively punitively punishing citizens for following the guidelines the ATF had already set forth.
At this point, the ATF has gone fully rogue. I’m not being dramatic here at all. They know that in order to redefine anything in the NFA or in their own rules that they must have Congressional oversight. They know that they cannot just arbitrarily make new rules or change the old ones. Yet, that is precisely what they are doing. In my opinion, the ATF needs to be abolished. They are clearly and knowingly disregarding the rules. If any American citizen did what the ATF is doing they would certainly face legal trouble, however because it is the Government, they’re allowed to get away with whatever they want.
It’s been made very clear that the ATF believes “Rules for thee, but not for me” and that is an extremely dangerous position for a Government Agency to hold in a Constitutional Republic like the United States of America. Down with the ATF.