I am not what you would call a gun enthusiast. My wife and I each have one and know how to use it. We have each taken a carry class, although I never got a permit. I just never foresaw a need to carry it, and I don’t go to the range enough to be a reliable shot in public.
Still, I am a 2nd Amendment guy, and definitely not a fan of government going out of its way to turn law-abiding citizens into criminals.
That’s what the Biden Administration is doing: reversing a decade-old ruling that assured gun owners that the purchase and use of pistol braces did not violate the National Firearms Act (NFA).
I had not ever seen a pistol brace and didn’t even know they existed, but it turns out that they are pretty popular with gun owners. Between 10-40 million of them are possessed by gun owners in America according to the Congressional Research Service. They help stabilize a gun while aiming and firing by providing an extended brace beyond the pistol grip.
The advantage for aiming and firing multiple shots is obvious; by transmitting recoil to the body through the brace rather than the hand alone the gun is easier to control.
“While firearms equipped with ‘stabilizing braces’ or other rearward attachments may be submitted to ATF for a new classification determination, a majority of the existing firearms equipped with a ‘stabilizing brace’ are likely to be classified as ‘rifles’ because they are configured for shoulder fire based on the factors described in this rule,” the ATF said in the rule. “Because many of these firearms generally have a barrel of less than 16 inches, they are likely to be classified as short-barreled rifles subject to regulation and registration under the [National Firearms Act (NFA)] and [Gun Control Act].”
The agency says that nearly everyone with a pistol-brace-equipped gun is “violating the NFA by possessing an unregistered rifle with a barrel of less than 16 inches.”
What is at issue is whether the brace turns the weapon into a “short barreled rifle,” which are controlled under the NFA and highly restricted. Short barreled rifles are treated differently under federal law than either long-barreled rifles or handguns, and by changing the rules the Biden Administration is turning lawful weapons into illegal ones at the stroke of the pen.
Gun owners will have only 120 days to apply for a special permit and pay $200. Something tells me that most gun owners will either be ignorant of or simply ignore the rule, having acquired the weapons legally.
“Any weapons with “stabilizing braces” or similar attachments that constitute rifles under the NFA must be registered no later than 120 days after date of publication in the Federal Register,” the agency said,” or the short barrel removed and a 16-inch or longer rifle barrel attached to the firearm; or permanently remove and dispose of, or alter, the “stabilizing brace” such that it cannot be reattached; or the firearm is turned in to your local ATF office. Or the firearm is destroyed.”
The rule faces substantial political opposition. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of public comments opposing the rule, nearly every member of the Senate Republican caucus sent a letter to Attorney General Garland demanding he withdraw of the rule during the summer.
“The way the proposed rule is written makes clear that ATF intends to bring the most common uses of the most widely possessed stabilizing braces within the purview of the NFA,” the senators said in the letter. “Doing so would turn millions of law-abiding Americans into criminals overnight, and would constitute the largest executive branch-imposed gun registration and confiscation scheme in American history.”
But there’s the rub: by turning millions of law-abiding citizens into instant criminals the government has acquired a powerful lever to use whenever they so choose. Anybody who possesses one has a sword of Damocles over his head. If the government decides it wants to get you, it can.
Violations of the NFA are no joke.
Violations of the National Firearms Act (“NFA”), which regulates the following types of weapons: machine guns, silencers, short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, destructive devices, and Any Other Weapons, carries extreme penalties: up to 10 years imprisonment, up to $10,000.00 in fines, confiscation of the weapons, and even confiscation of vehicles that NFA weapons were transported in. Plus, any willful attempt to evade or defeat the taxes imposed by the NFA will subject the violator to an additional 5 years imprisonment and up to an additional $500,000.00 in fines
Chances are good that the Supreme Court will overturn this rule, and it is already being challenged. But in the meantime the government has a new tool in its toolbox to threaten citizens with if they decide to go after them. With 10-40 million of the pistol braces out there, and many of them in the possession of people who don’t follow changes in the law minute by minute, millions of people could be turned into criminals without even knowing it.