How We Got Here: The ATF’s Unconstitutional Pistol Brace Ban

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Abolish the ATF

By Brandon Williamson

As you’ve no doubt heard, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has recently unilaterally declared virtually all AR and AK-style pistols with attached stabilizing braces to be short barreled rifles (SBRs). This change places these firearms under regulation by the National Firearms Act (NFA).

This is a significant change and a step backward for Second Amendment rights in our nation.

Because of this change, millions of Americans will soon technically be felons and staring at a potential 10-year prison sentence and fines of up to $250 thousand.

The ATF has declared a 120-day grace period in which they will allow owners to register these firearms with the ATF’s NFA division tax-free. Failure to register could result in serious criminal penalties for anyone caught with one. On the downside, it’s being reported that a denial will result in “enforcement action,” even if it’s an automatic denial, which happens when a NICS check takes longer than 88 days to complete.

How did we come to this point, and who gave the ATF the authority to redefine items of their own volition?

Back in 2020, former President Donald J. Trump, who was a registered Democrat from 2001-2009 and endorsed Hilary Clinton in the 2008 primaries, ordered the ATF to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns despite their not meeting the statutory definition of such a firearm.

According to 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b) a machine gun is “Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

A bump stock allows the stock to slide over a receiver extension during recoil to assist in resetting the trigger. It then slides back to the rear of the receiver extension during the strip, chambering, and locking sequence of firing. During the course of firing, the trigger goes through two distinct functions; releasing the hammer and resetting the hammer against the trigger sear.

If this were in fact fully automatic fire as you would get with a machine gun, an interrupter, also called an auto sear, would prevent the hammer from resetting during the firing sequence. By any measure, this precludes a bump stock from being considered a machine gun under U.S. law as written.

The ATF recently used this authority that Trump unconstitutionally bestowed on them to target forced reset triggers which operate using springs’ mechanical force from the firing components to force the trigger and trigger finger forward to allow the hammer to be reset. They followed this up with 2021r-08F, “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached Stabilizing Braces.”

As previously mentioned, under this new rule, which Congress had no say in, the ATF has yet again changed the law to the detriment of the American people and our rights.

There are an estimated 30 to 50 million braces in civilian ownership in the U.S. The number of owners of braced firearms is harder to determine. There is speculation they are owned by between five and seven million individuals, but I’ve not found an actual source for that figure.

That makes the change unconstitutional on multiple fronts. First, Congress makes laws, not regulatory agencies. This is an issue being fought over in multiple Chevron Deference cases currently.

Second, 30 to 50 million units in the hands of five to seven million individuals is clearly well within the “common use” arena that the 2001 Heller decision referenced. And finally, there was no regulation such as these in 1791, making this an obvious violation of the recent Bruen ruling.

Recently, a number of Congressmen have rebuked the ATF for their actions. There has been a bill introduced to abolish the ATF and another to repeal the NFA. I don’t believe either of those bills will pass, though I wish they would.

The best and most realistic things we can do are to take a page from the cannabis activists’ handbook and nullify federal laws on a state level en masse. We should also make a concerted effort to only support candidates with a die-hard dedication to protecting our Second Amendment rights.

We should also chip away at the most vulnerable bits of the NFA. The SBR and silencer portions are the best targets. Silencers have a huge benefit for hearing safety, and the SBR provision has very strong constitutional arguments for why they should be removed from the NFA.


Brandon Williamson is a U.S. Army veteran and the Director of Social Media at Young Americans for Liberty. He lives in Wyoming.

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  1. What would it take to challenge this under ADA?
    To me, it looks like discrimination against disabled folks denying them their 2A rights.

    • Only headline fixated knuckleheads rushed to lay the bump stock ban solely on POTUS DJT’s doorsteps. And so what if he was a democRat when he was not a democRat at the time of bump stocks and certainly not today based on what should be obvious very good reasons.

      Had POTUS DJT sat back like a Gun Control democRat and allowed congress to take the reins there would have been a very long list of things a knee jerk congress wanted to get including Binary Triggers, etc. Make no mistake about it following such a tragedy POTUS DJT was between a rock and a hard spot.

      I see nothing in the article where williams says anything that would turn the tables on Gun Control. Actually it is his failure to define Gun Control by its history of rot that is keeping Gun Control alive. If the perhaps well meaning williams wants to defeat Gun Control he should cut the crap and define Gun Control as a History confirmed agenda rooted in racism and genocide. I ask you mr. williams…Isn’t it about time Gun Control joined its sidekicks slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, genocide, etc. in hell?

    • “What would it take to challenge this under ADA?”

      At first blush, that’s what I was thinking.

      On further reflection, that may end up hurting. These days, to get a disabled parking placard to keep your vehicle from being towed from a placarded handicapped parking spot, an MD has to sign a declaration that you are disabled enough to require it.

      I might actually legitimately qualify for one, based on a hand crush injury I got when I was clipped by a car a few years back. For months after, I was unable to make a fist. Now I can, after unpleasantly-painful repetitious hand exercises, but I’m not 100-percent recovered.

      You can bet your ass they will come up with some sort of MD report to get that ADA exemption.

      Fuck that noise… 🙁

      • “I identify as handicapped. And a lez-bien trapped in a man’s body.” If men can identify as women…why not?
        “Don’t be so ableist!”

    • This has already been brought up. Basically the ATF said that the ADA does not apply federally, only to states, counties, and cities.

      • They’re right, but there are a patchwork of disabilities laws that apply in different situations. I conducted just a quick search, but this one might apply:

        Section 504 states that no individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

        As ATF is an executive branch agency, and a case can be made that banning braces denies disabled people their second amendment rights, it would seem at first blush that you could simply sue under this section of the law instead of the ADA.

  2. Wow 1st thing you do is rag on Trump??? No props for SCOTUS? Bruen? Stopping baby butchering?!? Epic fail “let’s go” Brandon…

    • Don’t you know it’s always Orange Man Bad’s fault? Brandon Williamson thinks Trump is a Democrat. It’s always Democrats/Trump bad, Republicans good. Trump was in politics for all of four years. Where has the GOP been for decades? Spoiler alert: the GOP sucks. Nothing happens until we remake the party. Brandon Williamson probably supported Mittens, Ryan, McCain, and low energy ¡Jeb!

      • Who is “WE” rootiepoot? You PERSONALLY been to a Central committee meeting, knocked on doors, attended County, District or State convention, run for ANY office?

        • Did I hit a nerve? Yes, the GOP sucks. I’m sorry you were fooled by Ryan, et al. This country isn’t in the toilet because of the Democrats. It’s in the toilet because of what both political parties did. They worked together to wreck the middle class and the future of this country.

          The only way things will change is if one of the main political parties changes. Unfortunately, there’s too much infrastructure in place for a viable third party. The Democrats are completely lost. That leaves us with the GOP. Keep on supporting ‘R’ for the establishment if you’re happy with the trajectory of this country.

        • “They worked together to wreck the middle class and the future of this country.”

          They’re still working together. Senate Republicans went out of their way to empower the Puppet Administration, and take away power from the incoming House Republicans, screwing over their constituents, as usual.

  3. Up to 10 years in Federal prison and $250,000 fine for each charge. Seems somewhat heavy for not paying a $200 tax, and for something that the AFT said *checks notes* several times over the past decade was legal and subject to that tax. This doesn’t qualify as cruel and unusual punishment?

    • Al Capone got 11 years and an $80,000 fine for tax evasion.

      Murder a couple people and get out in 7. Rape a few and you’re out in 5. But fail to pay the government what it says you owe? Up the creek with you!

        • I’ve been on TTAG for several years, and a regular commenter since 2019. I’ve never seen an edit button, despite your suggestion, which others have mentioned to me as well in the past. When I check that box, it doesn’t result in an ability to edit. Don’t know way, but it’s been the same regardless of whether I access TTAG via my phone, or my home PC, or any of my work PCs, or a friend’s PC, or…

          Never seen this elusive edit function.

        • Dude is correct within the 5 minute window, but only when you check the “Save my name…” box which is right below the Name: Email: and Website: fields. No, it does not say check this if you think you might want to edit, but that is what it does.

          For example below this line I said “Lil d is a communist inspired id10t twice. I then took out the second time I said it because once was enough.

          Lil d is a communist inspired id10t

  4. Why are we not hearing about lawsuits being filed on this? One week after the Illinois law numerous lawsuits were filed. Everyone keeps saying this is unconstitutional, yet have not heard of a single lawsuit being dropped.

      • Nope. ILLANNOY was passed by DIMS. THIS BS was by fiat. I have no interest in yer braces but support the fight. You’re ALL illinoisans now!

        • Makes the number of pissed off normies grow by each law passed in defiance of Bruin, just wait till they figure out they are paying for one side of the lawsuit by default.

    • Pretty confident that multiple state AGs will file lawsuits after ATF’s “final rule” gets published in the Federal Register. The press release announcing this forthcoming rule isn’t enough to give anyone standing to sue.

    • Stephen Craig,:

      The reason no lawsuits have been filed is that this “regulation” must “ripen” ie. be published officially in the Federal register then and only then will a court consider addressing the “constitutionality” of the decree.

      I believe thanks to the Bruen decision the majority of courts where this is heard (there will be multiple filings challenging this overreach in various districts across the nation) judges will issue injunctions against enforcement until the cases go to trial where I also think the BATFE will lose yet again as jurists don’t like being overturned by either the Appealate or Supreme Court.

    • NFA repeal isn’t going to happen, especially when in the ‘Heller’ decision authored by Scalia, he recognized there were especially dangerous weapons that could be regulated.

      Full repeal isn’t happening. What we absolutely can get is the 200-dollar stamp fee repealed on the basis of poll taxes being unconstitutional, and drastically speeding up the approval time to a max of 30 days. I wouldn’t like it, but I can wait 1 month.

      And, be serious. Do you really want some hate-filled Leftist Scum ™ walking into a country bar somewhere and mowing down 100 Trump supporters? Some degree of filtering has to be done. With everything on computers today, there’s zero reason they can’t do it in 30 days…

  5. ATTENTION EVERYONE. The ATF has put a regulation change within the e-file section’s FAQ that states that a person can no longer supervise another person using an NFA item. Go look it up. Fenix Ammunition has it on their Twitter and there’s a few YT videos out about it already.

    • Correct, loaning is out, even in the direct presence of the stamp holder.

      That’s gonna get taken care of when Hollywood discovers they can no longer make a movie with a prop shop machine gun silencer, or SBR…

      • “That’s gonna get taken care of when Hollywood discovers they can no longer make a movie with a prop shop machine gun silencer, or SBR…”

        More likely, Hollywood will use deactivated weapons, and empty tubes; letting FX handle the simulation of weapons actually operating, and firing. Indeed, actors can use blue guns, and let FX manipulate the images; no reason for actors to ever have an operational firearm (or “dummy” firearm) ever again.

        OTH, political pressure from the elites will eventually create a “carve-out” for movie makers.

      • UPDATE –

        The ‘Guns and Gadgets’ YouTube channel is now reporting that part of the FAQ has somehow dissappeared…

  6. I have never owned a NFA firearm, never wanted a suppressor, machine gun or short barrel rifle. That said, there are 22,000 gun laws in America between the Federal and States. Every dam one of those laws are unconstitutional.

    • We can get suppressors removed from the NFA with nothing but logic.

      In many parts of the world, suppressors have no more regulation than common handguns.

      If they really want to be like Europe, where it’s considered impolite to hunt without a can, they will have zero reason to to regulate cans on a standard 4473 form.

      They’ll yell, scream and cry like petulant children not getting their way, but they have zero reason to regulate cans…

      • Loud guns help keep those silver spoon idiots who build McMansions out where ranges have been for 80 years nice and angry and they scare the hippies out hiking with their golden doodle during deer season. Those are two important gun control demographics.

        A less loud gun won’t be as effective at scaring and angering idiots. When you accept the end goal is always a complete ban on everything it makes sense. If you still believe they just want “common sense” it of course seems illogical to oppose suppressors.

  7. The ATF has made many anti-gun decisions in the past including even outlawing a piece of leather called the wallet holster. It outlawed scary shotguns like the Street Sweeper and the Spas shogun that became wildly popular after it was in the movies. These “regulations” are still law and if anyone thinks the new ban on the Pistol Brace or the Bump Stock bans will be rescinded either by the ATF or the Courts is just living in La, La, Land.

    As Mao Zedong once said “Power comes from the barrel of a gun” and the Feds have all the firepower and they do as they please Constitution or no Constitution.

  8. @I Haz A Question
    “Never seen this elusive edit function.”

    Over the years, I finally understood that some people post and reply while reading articles from the TTAG website, and some post and reply from emailed articles. There may be a significant difference in the aftermath of commenting/replying, depending on the avenue chosen for reading.

    I always comment/reply to emailed content. After “checking all the boxes”, I wait until I see the comment/reply added to the thread. The comment/reply appears as text inside what looks like the original comment box. Below the box, there is a timer, and an edit function, allowing one to re-visit the comment/reply.

    I don’t know if my comment/reply is visible to others while I am making edits. It appears that only the edited version gets displayed in the list of comments on the website page. I don’t know if this edit ability is available to people commenting directly on the web page.

    • I “try” to carefully type my comment. Occasionally I use the edit function which may or may not work. Usually if my witty reply is far below who I was communicating with I delete if it makes no sense. And it’s been a LOT worse than now 8 or 9 years ago…

      • Ok, Sam, here’s the scoop. Two separate computers. From the web page, checking all the boxes so that my inbox will get clogged up, my post appeared on this tablet screen with Edit, Delete, and a timer, just below my text. I refreshed the page that was open on my desktop screen, and my post appeared there. The timer was still counting down on the tablet screen, so I hit Edit, replaced “four” with “three” and saved it, then refreshed the desktop, and there was the updated post. Timer still going on the tablet, so I changed it back to “four” and le voila. The timer eventually hit zero, and the concrete set up. There you have it. I didn’t test whether all the boxes must be checked, because I’m lazy and this should be sufficient. I left the boxes unchecked for this post.

        • Oh, and some time future, whenever we are ranting about lost posts, I’ll explain why two computers. Actually three, counting my mobile.

        • “Ok, Sam, here’s the scoop. Two separate computers. From the web page, checking all the boxes …”

          Thanx for doing that. I have no clue why people are not seeing the edit function. Of course, my email account also doubles every message (two listings for one email). But, I do have the edit function for TTAG.

  9. We were on the verge of getting the Hearing Protection Act passed and then….Las Vegas happened. Makes me wonder if we’ll get close again and what happens. Yes, I have new tin-foil ready…still though..

    • That was never gonna happen. They would have been better to instruct the atf to create new easier procedures.

      Why not allow the SOT to have the tax stamps ready to be printed once an instant background check passed, on the phone. Come in, do the check, print the form 4. Pay the tax.

      There’s no law, just procedure that requires all this wait and mumbo jumbo. Furthermore, by decree, and pre1986 auto WORLDWIDE and oreMay samples could be put on the registry. All the law says is a date manufactured – unless my memory fails me.

  10. Pistol Braces make a pistol physically larger and more difficult to conceal so aren’t they, therefore, public safety devices ????

  11. @hawkeye
    “…some time future, whenever we are ranting about lost posts, I’ll explain why two computers. Actually three, counting my mobile.”

    Understand. I use one computer to note that emails from TTAG are present, and a different computer for actually responding.

  12. The best thing to do for everyone owning a pistol brace is non-compliance and non-registration. They don’t have the time, personnel, or money to enforce this rule particularly if the vast number of owners simply don’t register their weapons. They will have to get warrants to search your home and that process alone for millions of people is insurmountable. They would have to spend 100% of their time doing nothing but that. It would bog down the courts and most importantly those agents know that if there is non-compliance and they go to homes without a warrant many of them are not going home to their families on that day. Since there is no national registry any information, they have on who possesses these types of firearms had to be obtained in violation of your 4th amendment rights to privacy. The only way they can know if you have one of these braces is if they catch you in the act of using it. In states like NY, CT and NJ where people did not comply the Supt of State Police told their Governors that they would not enforce the law unless it was in the commission of another crime. Do not comply. Do not allow law enforcement into your home without a warrant. If they enter illegally invoke your State’s Make MY Day or Castle Domain laws and defend yourself, family and property by whateve means you need to use. Fight don’t comply.

    • “Don’t have the time or resources to enforce this”? They will do to those possessing braces just what they’re doing to the Jan. 6th-ers ie. scour their social media, online purchases, in-person purchases then pounce, if you ordered from PSA etc. you’re a target. Now those who have the means to retain an experienced attorney versed in firearms/criminal defense might be vindicated at trial especially in “friendly” districts by “jury nullification” but everyone else particularly those in “Blue” or ,”Purple” areas will be screwed and look to take the deal offered by the DOPES prosecuting them in behalf of the ATF.

      And as far as juries go one need only.look at what the DOPES in EDNY office are doing to Douglass Mackey aka “Ricky Vaughn” (on (Twitter) over some “election” memes, after losing a previous case against a Trump associate because of one jury holdout they’ve declared only the “vaccinated” can serve on the jury deciding his, Mackey’s, fate. The “fix” is in.

  13. This is the one thing I will do to abide by the (P.O.S.) ATF’s Unconstitutional “new ruling”; I.Will.Not.Comply!!!

  14. “This is the one thing I will do to abide by the (P.O.S.) ATF’s Unconstitutional “new ruling”; I.Will.Not.Comply!!!”

    A noticable number of commenters encourage such action. Kinda puts to rest the notion that legal gun owners are the most law-abiding people in the country. Not to mention that POTG appear to like jury nullification when it benefits, but not when the anti-gun mafia does it.

    Does this put legal gun owners in the company of the anti-gunners, dimwitocrats, leftists, communists, nihilists, anarchists who live by situational ethics?

    • Sam — might this have more to do with POTG refusing to comply with a clearly unconstitutional edict from a regulatory agency, and not violating a duly-passed law by a representative congress?

      I’d say yes, especially since such agency rule-making has already been found to be unlawful in itself — witness the bump-stock rule reversal, and the numerous reversals by the ATF for trying to institute a similar restriction against pistol braces since 2013.

      Not to mention (but I will) the statements made by the ATF in the recent and not-so-recent past that pistol braces are totally legal and allowable.

      • “Sam — might this have more to do with POTG refusing to comply with a clearly unconstitutional edict from a regulatory agency, and not violating a duly-passed law by a representative congress? ”

        That’s the general excuse, but we do like to naysay other people who violate laws because they deem them unfair, biased, oppressive. The way to deal with unconstitutional law is via the ballot box, or jury box.

        Claiming to be the most law-abiding people, but then declaring exceptions is actually no different from “I believe in the Second Amendment, but….”.

        If an individual wants to claim to be law-abiding, but…, fine. Just understand who “you” are, and “your” inherent conflict.

        • “That’s the general excuse, but we do like to naysay other people who violate laws because they deem them unfair, biased, oppressive. The way to deal with unconstitutional law is via the ballot box, or jury box.”

          How does one deal with a “law” that is nothing more than a regulation, promulgated by a bureaucratic entity not representative of the people, illegally given the force of law?

          You can say “the courts” of course, but non-compliance with an illegal regulation while it works its way through the legal system, is the only mechanism that the people are left with, their other options having been pre-emptively curtailed.

          Thank you for your response.

  15. Djt did this to take the heat of the real calls for gun control that were swirling. Of course the ban didn’t follow the law. Perhaps that was the point.

    I think the best arguments against this new rule are the vagueness and subjective scoring system, and the unequal application (I think it’s possible for some weapons to be ok IF you are actually disabled? But not otherwise…).

    Also the takings clause. And impossibility of performance (88/120 days)

    They would have done themselves a favor by granting more time and less onerous requirements to comply.

    Can they waive the $200 tax stamp? I don’t think they can. Where does that power come from?

  16. How We Got Here: The ATF’s Unconstitutional Pistol Brace Ban

    no need for a long article on it as it can be explained with this…Joe Biden

    • Plus 1. This pistol brace BS is at the behest, recommendation and demanded by Der Fuhrer Joedolph Biden along with the “yes man” Merrick Garland and the rest of the POS anti gun democrats .

  17. At one time they were considered short barrelled rifles and swap one piece to a piece of rubber and voila, it’s a “pistol.” ATF set a trap for idiots with the regulatory change that allowed them in the first place. ATF has now sprung the trap. Anyone who did not see through the ATF’s trap up front years ago probably needs to go back to wherever they went to school and ask for their money back.

    • Since you saw through this scheme years ago, did you post on this forum to warn everyone that this would happen? If not, why not? We idiots needed your guidance.

      I went to public school. Where do I get my parents’ tax money back?

  18. “And finally, there was no regulation such as these in 1791, making this an obvious violation of the recent Bruen ruling.” In 1791, the was no common use of metallic cartridges, breach loaders, semi-autos, 1911s, M1a, and the scary, dreaded AR format. Careful of the traps governments place in the weeds. Does this “in common use” preclude We The Little Peep access to emerging new firearm technologies??? That was clearly what the aforementioned advances were, each in their own time.

  19. “On the downside, it’s being reported that a denial will result in “enforcement action,” even if it’s an automatic denial, which happens when a NICS check takes longer than 88 days to complete.”

    Let them come.
    The multiple lawsuits will make for a nice little SCOTUS court case to remove SBR/SBS from the list, provided they have competent lawyers who aren’t being paid for by some gun rights groups that get paid by the pistol brace makers to keep them and their businesses going rather than actually fight the NFA.

    We most likely wouldn’t have this ruling in the first place if many of these idiots making braces hadn’t openly thumbed their noses at the ATF, going “HAHA, look at what we’re doing, you can’t do anything about it!”, while making braces that were clearly stocks in the first place. Now that they’ve shot themselves in the foot, they’re being forced out of business.

  20. @ @Sam
    “How does one deal with a “law” that is nothing more than a regulation, promulgated by a bureaucratic entity not representative of the people, illegally given the force of law?”

    The courts.

    I understand your thinking, but it remains an exception to being law-abiding; which was my point. Being “mostly law-abiding” doesn’t have the ring of self-satisfaction, does it? The founders were not law-abiding; resistance to the king was illegal, resistance to the parliament was illegal, revolution against government was illegal.

    In the end, a claim of inconvenience is not justification for lawlessness (i.e., “while unconstitutional laws are in existence, people are oppressed through the years of litigation/legislation to overturn unconstitutional laws”).

    To return to my commentary, if one wishes to defy the law (“will not comply”), fine. Simply understand such non-compliance is evidence that we are not morally superior to those who defy laws they deem unconstitutional, laws that we actively support and agree with (such as “cash bail”).


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