ATF’s latest attack on how we’re allowed to configure stabilizer brace-equipped pistols comes at the expense not only of freedom, but of jobs and money, too. More than you might think. As in, tens of thousands of jobs and multiple billions of dollars in revenue.
Brace-equipped pistols have been among the hottest sellers in the firearm industry for the past eight years. Particularly over the last three or four years, if a company has been selling either concealed carry or a brace-equipped pistols, they have been selling ’em like crazy. If just one product out of a company’s dozen products is a brace-equipped pistol, it’s reasonable to believe it represents a third of that company’s revenue.
It’s easy to see why. Adding a stabilizing brace to a large-format pistol provides the aesthetic and physical balance that the otherwise front-heavy pistol lacks, while even more importantly improving control, safety, and accuracy.
I’ve spoken with a handful of industry companies this week, some of them retailers, some manufacturers. Some have built their entire business around pistol braces, some sell one or two braced pistols among a larger line of handguns, rifles, shotguns, and more.
In every case, the fear and confusion among distributors, retailers, and consumers has already impacted their sales. And not just sales of braces, mind you, but of the entire ecosystem of firearms and products that are built around braces. As a result of the ATF’s proposed “guidance,” these business owners aren’t only predicting substantial hits to their bottom lines, but many are already experiencing it. Some predict they won’t survive as a result.
All this after what has been a banner year for most in the firearm world. In fact, sales have been so strong for many companies that they were able to hire employees from other industries who had lost their jobs due to COVID-19 shutdowns.
Assembly, manufacturing, and other good jobs in the firearms industry have provided opportunities for restaurant workers and others who found their industries demolished due to the pandemic. Many firearm manufacturers are located in small towns, many in rural areas. In fact, a few of the companies I spoke with are in economic opportunity zones and a few are the largest employer in their county or region.
According to the NSSF — which, incidentally, has been frustratingly silent on this issue despite claiming to be “The Firearm Industry Trade Association” — in 2019 the firearm industry was responsible for over $60 billion in economic impact and 332,000 full-time-equivalent jobs. We don’t have numbers for 2020 yet, but we know it broke all previous records.
Now, as a direct result of the ATF’s actions against stabilizing braces, the companies I spoke with predict, cumulatively, over $1 billion in lost sales if the agency’s proposed guidance is finalized in its current vague form. Heck, massive sales losses and purchase order cancellations have already happened. These proposed guidelines are so subjective and could be enforced so arbitrarily that just the prospect of it is scaring business away.
One of the largest manufacturers in the industry, employing a couple of thousand people, said braced pistols account for approximately half of their sales. Among the companies I heard from, the general consensus is a predicted revenue loss of 33% to 90%.
This, mind you, is just the direct effect on these companies themselves. When you factor in suppliers to these companies, whether it’s cardboard boxes or anodizing services or contract manufacturers or marketing firms or the deli around the corner, the downstream repercussions are even deeper and wider.
There will be monetary losses and there will be substantial layoffs as well. ATF could not have crafted its “objective” guidance in a better way to sew fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
In the midst of a pandemic, with the resulting record-setting economic hardship, ATF is now on the attack, harming a healthy market that was built on good faith and operating under guidelines previously established by the very same regulatory agency. It seeks once again to potentially make criminals of millions of well-intentioned, law-abiding citizens who followed every known guideline and law, only to find themselves years later in possible violation of ATF’s most recent change of heart.
The extraordinarily vague nature of these guidelines, should they become final, would mean no owner of a brace-equipped pistol could ever truly feel safe from ATF overreach and prosecution (persecution?). A “we know it when we see it” doctrine leaves no clear path for those who seek to follow the law.
Despite the fact that pistol braces are still legal and brace-equipped pistols are still legal, the confusion and fear generated by ATF’s proposed new guidelines alone is enough to negatively impact sales and production, causing the sort of negative effects on jobs and lives mentioned above.
Enough is enough. We start to fight back by making our voices heard. HERE are some ways to do just that.
P.S. — Everything above, though on a smaller scale, applies to the 80% receiver market as well, which is also currently under ATF attack.