On Friday, January 13, the Biden administration’s DOJ and ATF enacted perhaps the most anti-gun rule in a generation. By “clarifying” that a certain firearm accessory, the pistol brace, is illegal without special registration and regulation, they have pulled the rug from under millions of Americans who own them. If these people don’t act to register or destroy their property or “surrender” their firearms within 120 days, they will be considered federal felons. The magnitude of this rule change is hard to understate, both in the numbers of Americans affected and the legal jeopardy they will soon be facing.
Pistol Brace – Register Or Else
A pistol brace affixes to pistols to make them more stable. Generally, guns that aren’t shotguns are classified as pistols or rifles. So-called “short-barrelled rifles” have long been treated differently under the law – with much greater regulation than long rifles, including a special registration and a $200 tax for purchase or transfer. What changed on Friday was that the ATF announced millions of devices it previously said did not convert a pistol into a short-barrelled rifle now do and that their previous pronouncements were incorrect. Whoopsie!
According to the ATF, the agency’s first guidance on a pistol brace was in 2012. When asked by a gun dealer how to classify the devices: The agency concluded that the submitted “brace,” when attached to a firearm, did “not convert that weapon to be fired from the shoulder and would not alter the classification of a pistol or other firearm,” and therefore, “such a firearm would not be subject to NFA [National Firearms Act] controls.”
That last line about being subject to NFA controls is what’s important and what’s changed. Now the agency says they are subject to NFA controls. The same law that established massive regulatory and tax burdens on machine guns did so on short-barrelled rifles too. According to the new rule, purchasers of the accessories, which have been selling like hotcakes since 2012, are now outlawed – or will be in 120 days.
Do As I Say, Now, Not Before
There were more letters discussing similar devices sent to various dealers and manufacturers, all of which said they did not do what the agency now says they do – convert a pistol into a short-barreled rifle. Then the flip-flopping started. In 2015 the agency said, “Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked.” In 2017 they went back on that language and said it was OK for people to, at least sometimes, shoot with a pistol brace placed against the shoulder, and such use did not convert the gun into a short-barrelled rifle.
If it all sounds confusing, that’s because it is. The ATF went back and forth several more times after that, culminating in a letter from multiple members of Congress in June of 2020, demanding they clearly state the specific criteria used to determine if and when the use of an arm brace somehow converts a regular pistol into an NFA-regulated firearm. Then on December 18, 2020, the agency posted a formal proposed rule, giving only 17 days for comment over Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year. The dirty politics of it was met with outrage and scorn so intense the agency withdrew the regulations in the face of 70,000 comments, mostly in opposition. And now they have, under Biden’s direction, decided to move in the extreme opposite direction, ruling brace owners violate the law by the stroke of their pen.
Lawsuits have been filed to stop this rule’s implementation, and the coming week is sure to bring more – at least one from every pro-gun organization around is to be expected. Will there be relief in time to avoid the 120 “grace period” the regulations give? That’s a tough question to answer at the moment. Donald Trump made a like move during his presidency with bump stocks, and the gun rights proponents fighting it only recently found some relief in the courts, and that fight is far from over.
Who’s Watching Them?
The same day the DOJ/ATF dropped the pistol brace rule change, a new story broke about the Biden administration agencies acting in concert to spy on gun owners. Documents produced to Gun Owners of America from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveal ATF agents conspiring with the FBI to monitor specific people through the federal firearm background check system with daily database reports. This is for those who lawfully purchase guns. The Epoch Times broke the story and got a quote from Gun Owners of America attorney Rob Olsen who told the outlet, “They are basically tracking – without a warrant – every gun purchase by these people,” and “There’s no legal process here. At best, this is highly questionable, if not outright unlawful.”
The combination of the heavy hand of law enforcement tracking and the imposition of a new rule creating criminals out of whole cloth does not bode well for Americans who wish to keep and bear arms. Gun rights advocates knew Joe Biden would come for the guns and come hard, and now we see how hard. It’s up to the courts to save gun owners, as the divided Congress will likely offer them no relief.
Courtesy of Liberty Nation News.
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