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ATF Headquarters dbking, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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ATF headquarters hq
The Deathstar (By dbking – originally posted to Flickr as _MG_5758, CC BY 2.0)

Yesterday, the ATF withdrew its notice and request for comments on pistol braces. Dan Zimmerman called this “an unqualified victory.” I respectfully beg to differ. I see it as a retrenchment rather than a retreat.

I found the “guidance” a bit odd from the start. Aside from beginning with the assumption that any brace was a buttstock until proven otherwise, it didn’t change anything. It left in place the usual “we know it when we see it” process of judging specific products instead of analyzing pistol stabilizing braces as a general class. I think that is coming.

While I certainly hope Dan is correct and this is a victory, I’ve found the best way to look at ATF decision making is with extreme pessimism. Sadly, I’ve been right more often than I’ve been wrong. Here’s what I think that notice is really saying.

The comment period would have closed on January 4. I think someone realized that finally issuing guidance that could be used by gun owners and manufacturers as a precedent — as opposed the individual determination letters — was a bad idea. Any brace that made it past the ATF could be used in court to argue for the approval of any other similar design.

But then someone in Washington looked at the calendar and realized that if they waited just sixteen more days past January 4, they could go full Biden. Or maybe they only have to wait one more day — January 5, the date of the Georgia Senate run-off elections — which will decide control of the Senate.

Hey guys, why not wait until the inauguration? Then we’ll have the full support of a firmly anti-rights Biden/Harris administration, and maybe both the House and the Senate, too. Then we can just call anything that can be used as a brace a buttstock. No ifs, ands, or buts. 

The ATF didn’t retreat. They simply halted the advance and are digging in, readying their fixed position artillery. We need to do the same.

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69 COMMENTS

  1. I said much the same thing on the original TTAG article. If the communists succeed in stealing the senate races in GA our Republic is over.

    • If they are successful in stealing the Georgia Senate elections I believe they will first stack the supreme court with an additional three activist judges before they push for an out right ban then all bets are off.

      • I think they will go for two and hope Thomas leaves in the next 4 years. Either way it’s going to be interesting to see what they pull. Typically the left doesn’t think many moves ahead so when it bites them in the ass they complain like 4 year olds.
        If the Senate flips and they trash the filibuster a R Senate in 2 years could have a lot of fun. President Harris is not one to negotiate shit so we would have gridlock and that is good.

        • “If the Senate flips and they trash the filibuster a R Senate in 2 years could have a lot of fun.”

          Have you not been paying attention? We won’t win shit in 2 years when they are the ones counting the votes…

      • They will see what a real ‘resistance’ is if they do that.

        I think they will be sneakier about getting to that goal…

        • Real resistance? LOL. I highly doubt that.

          The country’s cooked either way at this point. Best case we turn into the DWI’s where government is corrupt but honest about its corruption and it’s an open fact that you can do what you want if you have the cash in hand. Realistically there’s no good exit from the road we’re on (in a number of ways). The answer is to throw it in reverse and find a new road. But that’s politically impossible because facts and logic have totally been thrown out the window (along with science btw) and now it’s 100% feelz which freedom minded people have entirely refused to embrace and so the future battles cannot be won.

          More likely we implode at this point. When Karen finds out how long it’s going to take to get a new washer/dryer combo around April, she’s gonna have a shitfit. If anything kicks off a change maybe it’s the Karens that do it. Other than that we’re fucked because no one else is getting off the couch in large numbers until they feel enough actual pain and by that point it’s too late.

        • Force fair elections. Get rid of any voting machine with a CPU in it. Electro-mechanical tabulators *only*. Paper ballots only. Serial numbered ballot boxes that must be accounted for, so no ‘surprise’ ballot boxes showing up at zero-dark thirty to tip an election (like how Al Franken got in). Use the courts to force this…

        • Never happen dude.

          People won’t pencil in four hours a year to take back their local schools. They’re not gonna do shit about the election issues.

          The big fight now is about a pork laden spending bill for $600-$2000/person. No one even gives a fuck about Mike Lee, Mike-fucking-Lee, selling out American jobs to foreigners during at time like this. They’re too concerned about if they’re gonna get a deposit from the Fed instead of showing up at their Governor’s house demanding answers about bullshit lockdowns that can’t even keep the Coof out of Antarctica.

          No one even gives a shit that the Dems, the party “anti-war” party are basically pounding the war drums now for… Russia. That hack they’ve offered zero evidence for the perpetrator of… shit dude, it’s “another 9/11” or “a second Pearl Harbor”. Fucking Romney says it’s like there’s undetected Russian bombers over the mainland US.

          Bread and fucking circuses until it all comes apart. That’s what you’re going to get and the vast majority of people are going to go along with it because they’re morons. Shit, even TTAG’s running “wHaCha GoNNa dU wIT uR FrEe goVeRnMenT mONiEs!?” articles. By the time even 1/3rd of this country wakes the fuck up to how deep the water is right now world-wide it’s going to be too late. They’ll peddle nonsense stories about how nothing’s going on or it’s all a dastardly ChiCom plot… yeah, so well thought out they have an electricity shortage *eyeroll*.

          Just you wait til the end of Q2 next year when they tell you the taxpayer is on the hook for trillions in mortgage debt. QE to infinity right there. But, hey, deficits don’t matter so rev up those printing presses and we’re off to prosperity and beyond!

        • @strych9,

          I’ve heard the term “zero f**ks given”. Looks like you just gave five. Have some eggnog and catch your breath. 🙂

    • The Republic is over?

      Where dem boogbois at, yo? I thought we were gonna have a Revolution or some shit if… if… if… some line… is… crossed… maybe…

      You mean to tell me that half the comments on this website in the last 5 years were all self-serving preening bullshit about how hardcore the poster was? Damn. I’m dissa-fucking-pointed.

      But I’m not surprised.

      • Antifa shows up in ‘Black Bloc’ uniform looking for a scrap. It’s tougher to know who the belligerents are when they look like everyone else walking around.

        Asymmetric conflict is a thing… 🙂

        • Well there are literally armed commies out praising Marx while trying to intimidate Christmas Caroling folk while also trashing Biden and carrying around “Antifa Saved CovMas” signs.

          So…. yeah.

          Not that it matters. Literally every one of these people could wear a uniform and the “we need a Revolution” folks would still be at home stuck on the couch doing 12oz curls and trying to get out from underneath their beergut.

      • Same here. I have a good friend who will occasionally go on a strongly worded anti-Big Gov’t rant and what he’s going to do. When he gets done, I just stare at him and ask “Really?” He always pauses and then says “Well, no.”

        And that is where I am a bit envious of the Left because they wouldn’t (and don’t) tolerate even 1/10th what we conservatives do. In that regard, I wish we were more like them because we’d have pressured Trump into doing waaay more than he did re: gun “rights”…

        • You touch on something here and I’m just going to say “fuck decorum” about it.

          Conservatives are fucking pussies and, mostly, stupid to boot. They operate on the same “feelz” that they claim everyone else does, but Conservatives tell the worst lies of all; the ones we tell ourselves.

          That “live and let live” attitude is one the Left doesn’t share and they’ve used that to their advantage because the hard truth is that Conservatives talk a big fucking game but won’t ever do shit. But really that “attitude” is just a cover so that they never have to actually do something hard. Shit, they won’t even hold their own Senators to their word. There’s zero chance in Hell they take a page from the Left’s playbook and protest at an elected official’s house. Nah, too busy working (or something) to… I dunno do something useful. Just check out a schoolboard meeting. It’s 75% Lefty Karens and the rest are pussified Kens. Cons love to complain about the schools but their answers are to retreat from any kind of fight, go back to home schooling and let the Left indoctrinate 90% of the kids. Then, of course, complain about the outcome for another two decades instead of fixing the damn problem like an adult.

          I used to say this as a joke but it’s true:

          How do you get Conservatives to line up and clap like trained seals for a government raid that gets innocent people and animals shot, of often shot dead, confiscates firearms, cash and other property without due process and basically never returns that stuff even when zero evidence of the alleged crime is ever produced and, often, it’s proven that the government got the wrong address in the first place?

          IOW, how do you get Conservatives to throw out the entire BoR and fucking celebrate doing it?.

          Call it a “drug raid”. Yeah, that’s not a punchline anymore, though I used to think it was. It’s the damned truth. All talk, but Cons are just as scared of actual freedom as the biggest pantywaste Karen. But at least Karen has the balls to yell at someone about it.

          Drugs really are magical. LOL. [Queue up someone to come along and accuse me of using them too because they can’t handle the actual truth, lulz.]

          The country’s fucking cooked man. 62% are concerned about the size of the check the government’s going to cut them, you know, after Congress is done dolling out billions to other countries for programs like trans-gender-nonsense in Pakistan. But who gives a fuck if that check goes up $1400, amiright? The public has been bought, and half of so-called “Conservatives” with it. The rest don’t have the sack for an actual protest, nevermind anything more. Work? Dafuq is that? UBI! UBI! UBI!

          “Conservatives” won’t do shit. If they were going to do anything, they’d have done it already.

      • Me n you both Strych9, I dont brag about what I’ll do because I haven’t got to that bridge yet. A lot depends on how whiskeyed up I am, LOL. Bullet proof and then foot tall, just can’t stand up or load the gunm, so I guess its hand to hand, take on the whole platoon., Ugh guess I wasn’t as tuff as I thought, but what the hell went down laughing

      • Here’s what will happen, and I’ll try to use small words so you can understand them. If the communists steal the election in Georgia they will have control of the Senate. They will then eliminate, (sorry, I know that’s a big word but it is correct) the filibuster. You DO know what that word means, right? They can then pack the Supreme Court with communist judges. Then they can pass any law that they want even if it’s against the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court will declare those laws as Constitutional. They will then admit Puerto Rico, Guam and DC as states, giving them 6 more communist senators. There will never be another election in our country that will be a true contested election. The Republic will be over. If there is an actual bloody civil war remains to be seen.

  2. They have simply withdrawn the ability to comment, this does not mean they will not move forward with their agenda….you know they will.

  3. Yes it was a victory. No we shouldn’t trust the ATF any further than you can throw the Washington Monument!

    Write and thank your Congressman if they signed on to that letter or to ask them why they didn’t.

    • My representative did not sign the letter. I contacted him as well as both my U.S. Senators. The only one I heard back from was Rick Scott. It was a boiler plate acknowledgment of my email. He’s nothing but a RINO anyway. Didn’t expect response from Al Lawson at all. Disappointed in Rubio. Expected more from him.

      • “Disappointed in Rubio. Expected more from him.”

        There’s a fair chance he gets primaried by a transplant…

      • Whenever I send a 2A message to my “reps”, I have to choose from a drop-down of topics that clearly are funneling thought to THEIR position.

        All the replies I actually receive are bots saying how important gun safety is, we’re doing something about it, and feel free to contact them any time.

        AND! I’m on yet another list. On your feet or on your knees.

  4. To those who are celebrating, realize that this ATF withdrawal letter was written by government lawyers who are agents of a nefarious organization that acts under color of law. They chose their words very precisely. At best, this entire drama was the floating of a trial balloon on their part. At worst, it was a diversion—a feinting on the left to distract our attention away from that big sledgehammer on the right. I suspect the latter. “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.” If Biden is indeed sworn in, resulting in some four years of a Harris presidency, we’re gonna get socked.

  5. Ageeed. Good analysis. As I said previously holding ground is not victory it is survival, especially when you don’t know why the enemy allowed you to hold it with this latest feign.

    Maybe we could build an agency to arrest other government types that rule by color of law. Apparently, no current LEO agency gives a rat ass, pension and pay, pension and pay, just do what your told, just get on the train.

  6. Things are getting bad with the ignorant public and the ruling class and arrogant technocrats. Pray for a legitimate secession/partitioning movement. Otherwise all these pigs understand is the sword.

  7. The victory was that this act by the ATF resulted in many PotG deciding to finally step up and say something. Many of my pro-2A acquaintances that try to stay “under the radar” decided it was time to speak up. Now that this spark has been lit, it will continue to burn.

  8. Note in the original notice the ATF says that it is just letting us know what the standard has always been, is, and will continue to be.

    It also says that no notice is required, and no comment period is required. These were only given out of the kindness of their hearts.

    The withdrawal essentially says all these “objective factors” will remain in effect, we just can’t comment on them anymore.

  9. The battle never really ends – that said, I think ATF realized that subjective regs just were not going to fly. Expect them to come back with more objective standards for braces and AR15 pistols.

    • A lot of these rules just flow past me without my really understanding, guess I’m getting old. Some of you young whippersnappers explain this to me. I thought that identical stripped lowers were sold as/designated either pistols or rifles, and could not be simply switched. I got that when I purchased a 9″ .300 blk SBR, and was told I could not just remove the stock and use it as a pistol. If that’s the case, how can the ATF just “decide” that a lower which was sold as a pistol component is suddenly an SBR? I know, just shut up and do as I say, but still …

      • Nope. Since they can be used to build either they are treated as if they were the most restricted which means that serialized AR-15 lower receivers are supposed to be treated as handguns. Or at least tat was the explanation when I bought five of them a couple years ago.

        • Pretty much, and that’s a good way to explain it, but the official reasoning is the GCA of 68 defined separate criteria for purchasing handgun, long gun, or other firearm. The Form 4473 has separate checkboxes for the three categories for this reason.
          Long guns specifically can be purchased at age 18, and they have been defined by ATF as intact long guns. So, you can buy an AR, a Remington 700, and a Mossberg 500 from an FFL on your 18th birthday, no problem. Want to buy a stripped lower, barreled action, or 10/22 receiver? Gotta wait until you’re 21 because those are “other” firearms and not specifically exempted as an intact long gun. Same reason that you’ve gotta be 21 to purchase NFA items; an SBR is an intact rifle, but it’s not a GCA ‘68 intact long gun … but once that lower receiver is registered as a SBR (once a rifle, always a rifle), it’s got a caliber and OAL attached to it and is transferred per NFA rules as an SBR until otherwise removed from the registry.
          See? Clear as mud. And the kids are all safer now. Thanks NFA, GCA, and ATF!

  10. Two TTAG articles, same topic, same response!

    Good news for now. Still need lawsuits to reach the now five and one half Justices who will very likely repudiate and declare unconstitutional these idiotic infringements upon a Natural Born and Constitutionally Enumerated Right!

  11. Just ask Bloomberg, Soros and the Joyce Foundation if they’re backing off. They are the enemy. They are relentless, and they will never stop.

  12. It’s all B.S. , the SBR’s, stocked pistols, machine gunms, sawed off shotgunms and anything else. Find me where in the 2nd ammendment it says the arms you bear have to be approved by a government agency . I suppose in the near future the new constitution will change that. Let’s think what amendments will be permitted, not freedom of speech, not the right to bear arms, the 4th, the 14th. Try to think which ones “they’ll keep. And buddies when they go changing the constitution and We The People let it happen, well that’s on us. Just hope when we die and go to heaven Saint Peter’s at the gates and not the Founding Fathers, fraid they’ll say ” You can go to hell.”

  13. Obviously some LE leadership have been taken over by those with the mindset of a mike nyfong. Unless someone is doing something wrong along the lines of criminal misuse then leave them the f alone. If you receive an order that stinks refuse to obey it. That’s up to the rank and file unless they are corrupt too.

    With all sorts of armed really bad guy felons with a rap sheet a mile long running around out there you’d think someone would be focused on that instead of focusing on a silly brace. C’mon man.

  14. The ATF is working out how sweeping gun bans (stop calling it gun control) are going to pass through to their agency. How much more budget and staff are they going to get and will they have to follow any rules or just pull Waco on people with large caches of guns.

    The only good part is we see it coming. Democrats are dumb enough to telegraph everything.

  15. “Aside from beginning with the assumption that any brace was a buttstock until proven otherwise” – document didn’t say that. About the clearest it got was admitting that some braced firearms are legitimately handguns, and others aren’t. Anything beyond that quickly sank into the murk of “holistic” considerations.

    • Length of Pull is by definition only a measurement for shoulder stocks. Therefore, the inclusion of this measurement presupposes that the item being measured is a shoulder stock.

  16. *Yawn*. A win it never was going to be.

    The fact that the ATF had the balls to suggest this in the first place, particularly in the way and at the time that they did, tells you what you need to know.

  17. I am more sanguine than most here. This was a mere guidance document, and not a proposed regulation. Real “regulations”, that undergo an Administrative Procedures Act (APA) required Notice and Comment process can be used against the public. Guidance documents can only be used against the government. And, yet, it garnered almost 50k comments, that each would have had to have been considered in order to have enacted it as a “regulation”.

    Using guidance documents is a favorite back door method of some government agencies to avoid the scrutiny of APA required publication in the Federal Register, then consideration of all of the comments received. But it mostly doesn’t work in dealing with attorneys experienced in administrative law. Courts are obligated to give guidance documents minimal deference. Which essentially means that if all that an AUSA has to show that a certain short barreled AR-15 is a SBR, and not a pistol, for a conviction, is a guidance document, when faced with defense counsel versed in admin law, they are likely to go back to their ATF clients and tell them to try again. It’s different, of course, if they are stacking charges, in order to get a plea deal. But if the apparent butt stock is functional as a brace, then they are going to have a hard time proving knowingly possessing a SBR without the proper tax stamp beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Oh, and no one yet has factored in the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which is binding on the ATF, and their enforcement of firearms laws. After all, the original purpose of these braces was to allow a disabled veteran to shoot the civilian equivalent of the M16 he was trained on.

  18. As long as the ATF and not legislature gets to determine (through “definitions”) whether something is illegal, this problem will never end.

    All it would take is congress to pass a law and a president to sign it for such a thing to happen. That won’t happen in 2020 or 2022. But it could have happened in 2016. Why didn’t it?

  19. This is a tactical retreat so they can scheme behind closed doors. The easiest solution to their consternation over pistol braces would be if some of the folks in congress who signed that letter relentlessly pushed legislation to remove barrel length restrictions and ideally suppressors from the NFA. Policing barrel lengths and suppressors is a complete waste of resources. They should spend that effort on violent criminals and gangs instead of needlessly provoking law abiding citizens over arbitrary nonsense restrictions.

  20. My most immediate concern is for executive orders during Biden’s first hundred days. He could conceivably ban sale of new production braces, and that exact idea has been floated by campaign policy manager.

  21. Could be the case but why wouldn’t they done that from the beginning? I mean it could be so they could say this was in the process since the trump administration but that would be the only thing gained. I don’t think this is going away but this is a partial retreat by the ATF. The exponential growth of the comment section it went from 10k to 21k to 48k in a couple days. If the trend continued it would only take 1 more day to reach more comments then caused the back down on green tip ammo and the comment section wasn’t even close to closing, all of this during a holiday week. Depending on the results of the run offs in Georgia I think we are looking at them coming back with actual objective measures like certain weight, certain number of bullets, certain calibers vs telling biden he is going to need to get Congress support because they are not going to risk taking it to court and get it handed to them again like they are with the bump stocks and needing to drop gun charges because an ar15 lower is not technically a firearm. This will come down to GA but you can’t tell me someone at the top of this didn’t think about waiting a couple weeks longer before all of this went down.

  22. There’s no need for them to stop and wait for Biden. Did Trump issue an Executive Order to halt it? Give a speech against it? Have the Attorney General stop it? Include a sentence about it in another speech? Chided Congress to change the law? Condemn it in a tweet? No. Nothing. He isn’t a 2A advocate. He accepted the NRA endorsement, but the only action he’s really taken is give us a bunch of judges that are more likely to rule in our favor. He formed. 2A advisory council, but nothing came out of it. Instead of ignoring the BATFE swamp, Biden will order it to attack us.

  23. Unfortunately, I agree with your hypothesis of the ATF apparent retrenchment. It is not a victory, so much as a “cut-off” as if to say they’re going to bide their time for a thumbs up from the Biden administration. The community that supports the 2A needs to gird themselves and get ready to fight the good fight. The ATF has shown that, at its own whim, they are capable of making “laws” without we the people being represented. By definition, this is tyranny. Get your wallets ready people, to donate to the legal cases that organizations like the FPC will need to file and win. I’m ready and willing to make that sacrifice to keep my 2nd amendment rights for myself, my children, and my community.

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