We’ve been covering the ATF’s push to ram through some administrative language changes this year. But it looks like some people have jumped the gun. There has been some discussion in the gunblogosphere about whether the pending rule change from the ATF about “pistols” will be an attempt to re-classify AR-15 and AK-47 pistols as NFA items. Lord knows the ATF has had a burr under its saddle for months about these guns, especially when equipped with pistol arm braces. So it might make sense that they would want to find a way to quickly make that whole problem go away. But is this rule really about those AR-15 pistols at all? Not really . . .
I urge you guys read the actual source documentation instead of the clickbait news articles that’s out there. The proposed rule change, as stated in the ATF circular, is all about minor fixes to the language. It would allow the ATF to classify things like “pager guns” (whatever the hell they are) as an “any other weapon” under the National Firearms Act.
They’re doing this by amending the definition of the term “pistol” to include some things that were thrown out in 1988. Here is the current definition of a “pistol”:
A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having
(a) a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and
(b) a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).
Here is the proposed language from the ATF circular:
(a) A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having—
(1) A chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and
(2) A short fixed stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).
(b) The term shall not include any weapon disguised to look like an item other than a firearm, such as a pengun, wallet gun, belt buckle gun, pager gun or gadget device, or any gun that fires more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.
What might be throwing some people off: the inclusion of the word “fixed” in section (a)(2). I get the feeling that this was intended to allow them to regulate folding guns like the dreaded “Nazi belt buckle” pistol specifically listed in the circular, but some people might read that and instantly make the jump from “stock” to “brace.”
Which is a completely different thing and A-OK under the ATF. The “stock” that the ATF is referring to is the grip on the frame (where the magazine is inserted on semi-auto handguns). But their language is so opaque that it’s easy for people to get confused.
Another interesting item: the bit about “any gun that fires more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
The way I read this, that’s a direct attack on the Arsenal double-barreled 1911 — nearly 10 years before it came to market. That same language is used in the definition of a machine gun, by the way, so it’s not a new and unique way of describing a semi-auto gun. They are talking about a situation where a single pull of the trigger discharges two or more projectiles.
So, in reality, the proposed ATF rule change is significant for those who want to build briefcase pistols. It doesn’t apply to the AR-15 and AK-47 pistols.
The stories hitting the gunblogosphere come from people who haven’t actually read the thing, or got confused and took the easy way out by following the crowd. It’s entirely possible that the ATF will amend the language further to restrict AR and AK pistols as has been suggested. At this time, there’s no evidence to support the conclusion that such an attack on Amercians’ firearms freedom is imminent.