Background On The Proposed Rule
On Monday, June 7, 2021, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) released its proposed rule on pistol stabilizing braces. The ATF is accepting comments regarding the proposed rule from June 10, 2021 through September 8, 2021.
The proposed rule starts by stating that any brace that any manufacturer intends to be fired from the shoulder will be considered a short-barreled rifle (SBR) and subject to the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the associated rules for registration. The proposed rule further creates a points system that would allow the ATF to classify most pistol stabilizing braces as SBRs.
This extremely tedious proposed rule is 71 pages long and the rule’s primary focus can be boiled down to Worksheet 4999 “Factoring Criteria for Rifled Barrel Weapons with Accessories.” which reads, in pertinent part:
“Given the public interest surrounding these issues, ATF is proposing to amend the definition of ‘rifle’ in 27 CFR 478.11 and 479.11, respectively, by adding a sentence at the end of each definition. The new sentence would clarify that the term ‘rifle’ includes any weapon with a rifled barrel and equipped with an attached ‘stabilizing brace’ that has objective design features and characteristics that indicate that the firearm is designed to be fired from the shoulder, as indicated on ATF Worksheet 4999.”
o 1 point: Minor Indicator (the weapon could be fired from the shoulder)
o 2 points: Moderate Indicator (the weapon may be designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder)
o 3 points: Strong Indicator (the weapon is likely designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder)
o 4 points: Decisive Indicator (the weapon is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder
All it takes is four points to classify a gun as a Short-Barreled Rifle that must be registered under the National Firearms Act. The ATF would consider any gun with a score of four or more points an SBR. Firearms over 13 1⁄2 inches would automatically be an SBR. If a pistol has a standard buffer tube, then the firearm would be assigned two points. The ATF would consider any gun that is over 120 ounces unloaded an SBR.
More confusingly, if a firearm has flip-up sights, then the ATF would give that gun one point towards becoming an SBR. The ATF would assign a gun with a red dot two points. The ATF doesn’t see why a shooter would use a red dot sight on a pistol.
The ATF would assign any gun with a hand stop two points. That would put any firearm with a hand stop halfway to becoming an SBR. The ATF would consider any gun with a secondary grip as an SBR. Most current PSB-equipped firearms will qualify as SBRs under these new criteria.
Why does this matter?
The ATF claims there are 3 million of these PSB-equipped firearms in circulation. Most reliable gun-friendly sources put the actual number between 4 and 7 million. The ATF proposed rule would offer owners of PSB’s several choices.
The first choice is turning the guns into the ATF. The ATF says this choice would be at “no-cost” to gun owners. This move is gun confiscation, pure and simple.
The second choice would be to install a barrel that is more than 16 inches long.
The third choice is to pay a $200 tax stamp and register the firearm as an SBR.
The final option would be to modify the brace and not sell it to anyone in the future.
The proposed rule offers some additional alternatives. These alternatives include making the rules just guidance. That choice would mean that they would not have the force of law. Other alternatives include grandfathering all firearms with braces or forgiveness of the tax stamp fee.
Here’s why it matters. I predict very few gun owners will actually comply with this proposed rule, if it should become part of the revised regulations. Once we create 4 million new felons with the stroke of a pen, what happens when the hardworking men and women of the ATF and associated law enforcement are called upon to enforce these redefined regulations?
In 1992 federal agents killed Randy Weaver’s wife and 14-year-old son over the length of a shotgun barrel. A year later, eighty-two Branch Davidians and four federal agents died when the ATF tried to enforce the same law that this new ruling seeks to expand.
If we continue down this road the natural result will potentially be some horribly similar bloodbath. At that point everyone will feel terrible about it, but it will have been entirely preventable.
Contrary to the accepted narrative, PSBs are not some massive threat to public safety. Misguided politicians are threatening public safety through their wrong-headed approaches all by themselves, regardless of the way firearms are classified.
If you have the opportunity and are so inclined, we urge you to comment on the proposed rule at the following website: https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/definition-frame-or-receiver/submit-comment
Michael A. Nellinger, Attorney-at-Law
CFO, Top Shot Firearms Simulator, Inc.
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