On the rather appropriate date of Friday, Jan. 13, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released their dreaded final ruling banning pistol braces, and in 120 days when the ruling goes into effect, millions of Americans will arbitrarily become felons if they don’t surrender their guns or register them with the ATF.
Several years ago, when companies first started introducing stabilizing braces to the market, it presented an interesting legal question. as a weapon with a rifled barrel and a stock that is intended to be fired from the shoulder.
Rifles, by law, have to have a minimum barrel length of 16 inches. Any rifle with a barrel shorter than that is considered a short-barreled rifle.
To purchase or create a short-barreled rifle (SBR), you have to pay a $200 tax stamp and send in a bunch of information, including your picture and fingerprints, to the ATF, which then has to approve your request and give you “permission” to own an SBR. Once you own it, if you want to take it across state lines, you have to get permission from the state you are traveling to.
Needless to say, this is blatantly unconstitutional, but that is currently what federal law says. Break it, and you’ll be paying a massive fine and spending a decade in prison.
But for a while, there has been a loophole when it comes to short barrels: stabilizing braces.
Stabilizing braces were originally intended to be used by physically disabled people, such as wounded veterans who are missing an arm, to be able to fire a weapon, like an AR-15, with one hand.
Many braces feature a Velcro loop which the shooter can use to strap the brace to their forearm and fire the gun with one hand.
Some braces don’t have a strap and are just a thin piece of material the shooter can brace against their forearm.
When these braces were first introduced, these companies went to the ATF and specifically asked if they counted as stocks, or if it would be ok to put them on weapons with short barrels, since those would be easier to fire one-handed and weren’t intended to be fired from the shoulder. The ATF said it was fine and gave them their stamp of approval.
Until the ATF’s new illegal regulation, stabilizing braces didn’t meet the definition of a stock, and so any gun that had a barrel under 16 inches that used a brace instead of a stock was legally considered a pistol and therefore wasn’t subject to a tax stamp or registration. And the ATF was perfectly fine with that for years.
Until a couple of weeks ago.
Now, after millions of Americans have legally purchased weapons utilizing these braces, the ATF just changed its mind.
In 120 days after the ruling was announced, the new rule will go into effect and make tens of millions of Americans, including many Alabamians, felons unless they comply with this illegal and unconstitutional regulation.
Under the United States Constitution, only the Legislative branch of the government can create laws. The ATF is an agency of the Justice Department, which is part of the Executive branch, which cannot create laws. It can only enforce them.
The ATF, on several instances, has passed regulations which carry the force of law but aren’t created by elected officials. Many times, these regulations involve tweaking their own definitions of key words used in actual laws.
For example, the ATF recently reclassified a certain type of trigger as a machine gun. In reality, all the trigger did was allow for a slightly faster rate of semi-automatic fire. But by changing a definition, the ATF changed how it can enforce the law, even though it can’t change the law itself or make a new one. This is a sketchy loophole.
The same thing is happening now with braces. The ATF changed its definitions again, and now pretty much any pistol that uses a brace will be considered an SBR, with very few exceptions.
People who own short-barreled weapons with braces are faced with a few choices: put a longer barrel on the gun, destroy the gun, surrender the gun to the ATF or register the gun as an SBR (which the ATF is allowing people to do without a tax stamp until the rule goes into effect).
None of these options are tolerable. The Second Amendment clearly states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. This new regulation, as well as laws like the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act which are responsible for laws about barrel length, directly defy this right that we have.
Our right to keep and bear arms does not come from the government. It’s not something they can give to us or take away from us. It’s ours and ours alone, same as any other right acknowledged in the Constitution.
The ATF and the Justice Department are trying to frame braces as a public safety issue, but a government organization overstepping its authority in order to violate our human rights is not operating in the interest of public safety. Quite the opposite.
Tyranny is not public safety, but tyrants will often use the promise of safety and security as a false pretense to quell freedom and hoard more power for themselves. The Second Amendment was written specifically because of those kinds of people.
We the people cannot sit idly by while our government slowly tries to encroach on our most basic freedoms. We need to contact our representatives and senators at the state and federal levels and let them know that we will not stand for this blatantly unconstitutional decision from the ATF.
But there is some hope. This new ruling will undoubtedly be met with numerous lawsuits from various gun rights organizations. The recent Supreme Court decision in the West Virginia vs. EPA case in regards to executive regulations ruled that only Congress can create laws. Also, a federal judge recently struck down the ATF’s ban on bump stocks.
Given those recent rulings, I don’t think this new brace ruling will end up going into effect, or if it does, it won’t remain in effect for long. It seems far-fetched to me that the ATF would be willing or able to imprison millions of Americans, or risk the lives of its agents, by sending them in to kick in millions of doors—then again these are the folks behind Ruby Ridge and Waco. It’s even possible this is just a scheme to make more money on tax stamps.
Regardless, we need to speak up and make our voices heard—while we still have the right to do so.
See complete story in the Journal Record.