With the leak of a new letter showing that ATF is opening up a public comment period ahead of finalizing their “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces” document, there is renewed fear of an impending pistol brace ban. That isn’t happening.
However, ATF is absolutely attempting to crack down on what it will consider a pistol, and what it will not. Basically, what type and configuration of firearm the rogue bureaucracy gives its blessing for adornment with a pistol stabilizing brace, and what type it claims is just a short barreled rifle in pistol clothing.
First, let’s not miss this gem from the document:
The planned “Objective Factors” document isn’t a brace ban and it isn’t a law. ATF’s claim is that it’s simply detailing in a clear, objective fashion the metrics by which it does, will, and has judged pistol braces. You know, for our benefit. So that the firearm industry and the public understand exactly what is and is not kosher when it comes to a pistol brace.
Unfortunately, in full-on Princess Bride fashion, I do not think “objective” means what BATFE thinks it means. Perhaps it’s more like the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms Explosives Confusion Entrapment and Subjugation (or BATFECES)?
In fact, I would call these factors not objective, but objectively subjective. For example:
So this is, like, a rule that’s based on each individual person’s arm and wrist strength? You’re telling me that ATF’s fancy new “Objective Factors” document is comprised almost entirely of “we’ll know it when we see it” sort of generalizations? Yes, yes it is.
While you and I might believe an objective “so heavy that it is impractical” weight is 80 ounces and up, ATF somehow believes that these vague rules of thumb are “Objective Factors.” I find it very hard to believe this sort of subjective vaguery could possibly hold up in court.
Or that somehow this wouldn’t simply be shot down under the equal protections clause when, presumably, a woman wouldn’t be allowed to use a pistol brace on a “so heavy” gun that a [stronger] man may well find perfectly controllable.
I mean, isn’t increased control of large, heavy pistols the entire purpose of pistol stabilizing braces in the first place? In fact it is precisely because large format, heavy pistols such as AR-15 pistols are difficult to control with a single hand that ATF gave its stamp of approval to SB Tactical, inventors of the pistol brace, back in the day. Which they not only know, but explicitly state in this very document:
To be clear once again, pistol braces are NOT being banned (start with the first complete sentence below):
We’ve dealt with restrictions on what an acceptable brace format is in the past, such as the apparent 13.5-inch “length of pull” limit. ATF is now “informing” the public of other factors that it considers (and, allegedly, has historically considered; they just didn’t feel like telling anyone) when determining the validity of a braced pistol, such as choice of optic:
Effectively, all of these factors are intended to determine the pistol manufacturer’s and the end user’s intent. Was this firearm built with the intention of using it as a pistol or as a rifle? That’s the question that ATF is attempting to prosecute. Errr, answer. Or at least define. “Objectively,” only not so much.
Please refer to the document for the full list of “objective” factors by which ATF will determine “pistol” or “rifle.”
Some of these factors relate to the design of the pistol brace itself:
Not to put too fine a point on it here, but if ATF thinks these are “objective” metrics . . . I mean, seriously? Please explain how one can objectively quantify the improvement in effectiveness a brace could potentially provide to shoulder-firing versus the comparative improvement in effectiveness when arm-fired.
All of my ranting aside, the idea of objective, standardized, reliably-unchanging factors for how ATF determines firearms classification is a good thing. The industry has been demanding this for a very long time. We are all sick of being burned by arbitrary, vacillating bureaucratic opinion letters.
Firearm law is serious, and we law-abiding gun owners want to and intend to stay on the up-and-up. But we don’t want to walk on egg shells, we can’t be expected to have a law degree just to understand rulings, and we don’t have the time or resources to attend continuing education classes just to stay on top of ATF’s incessant shifts of opinion.
Besides, the more ATF goes back and forth on what is and is not acceptable, based not on actual, explicit law but rather on the ever-changing opinions of its personnel on how the agency interprets the law and intends to enforce the law, the less a well-intentioned public is going to care. The less it is going to comply. The less it can have any reasonable expectation of keeping up with these shifts in ATF’s interpretations and their objectively subjective rules.
Should you choose to comply with the latest in ATF’s waffling and indecision and absurd “standards” related to pistol braces, the agency is all too happy to help (in the “we’re from the government, and we’re here to help you” sense):
So, should your pistol not meet the “objective factors” detailed in this proposed document, fear not, you can register it as an SBR in an expedited process with the normal, $200 registration tax waived entirely. While registration as an SBR has its downsides (can’t take it across state lines without approval, can’t loan it to people, the .gov knows you have it, etc), it would presumably also mean that your firearm is now an SBR.
If you purchased that pistol brace in order to give your firearm a more balanced, more aesthetically-pleasing look and feel, then at this point you may as well ditch the arm brace and put a functional shoulder stock on it. Why not? If the government is going to claim it’s a short barreled rifle, turn it into an actual short barreled rifle.
Furthermore, our benevolent overlords are so graciously granting us clemency until such time as they aren’t. Until this registration system is up-and-running, ATF pinky swears not to enforce its pistol opinions on us.
As in interesting aside, there is now something on the order of five or six million pistol stabilizing braces in private ownership in the United States (the only country in which this is relevant, mind you, as effectively no other country regulates a “short barreled rifle” any differently from any other rifle). If short barreled rifles are so very dangerous, and ATF considers some percentage of these brace-equipped pistols to be short barreled rifles, why haven’t we seen a related increase in crime or in criminal acts committed with brace-equipped guns?
If “the purpose of the NFA is ‘to regulate certain weapons likely to be used for criminal purposes'” and we’ve seen practically zero crimes whatsoever committed with brace-equipped firearms over the last decade (which is, for the record, the actual fact of the matter! There’s literally one known case), then I move to remove SBRs from the purview of the NFA. The last decade has proven beyond any doubt that SBRs — if the ATF’s contention that many braced pistols are SBRs has any validity whatsoever — are not likely to be used for criminal purposes (less than 3 percent of murders are committed with any type of rifle).
Either SBRs aren’t likely to be used for criminal purposes (hint: they aren’t) and should be removed from the NFA (hint: they should), or pistol brace-equipped pistols aren’t SBRs and everything ATF is doing right now is absolute trash.
The public comment period on the proposed “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces” document begins very soon. We’ll update this article with a link to the specific page at www.regulations.gov as soon as it’s available.
Let’s make ourselves heard. Not just there, but with our representatives.
In the meantime, give the document a read and post any questions in the comments.
The industry IS going to fight this.