Demonstrating yet again that NFA restrictions are arbitrary, capricious, and absurd, here in Texas the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office is auctioning off some seized firearms. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that hidden in the mix is at least one Any Other Weapon (AOW).
You see, firearm laws are such a labyrinth of nonsensical gobbledygook that not even a law enforcement organization knows what is and isn’t legal. Yet the federal government via the ATF, which at best should be nothing more than a branch of the IRS charged with setting taxes on certain categories of products (as it was when it was created), will enforce the violations seen below with a 10-year federal prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
That, folks, is a pistol. BUT WAIT! It has a vertical forward grip on it. Uh oh! The addition of a second grip — a handguard doesn’t count, though, nor does an angled forward grip…for some inexplicable, nonsensical reason ATF only considers a vertical grip to be a grip for this purpose — makes this pistol an “Any Other Weapon” or “AOW” and puts it under the purview of the 1934 National Firearm Act (NFA).
You see, the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA) defines, as far as the .gov is concerned, what a “pistol” is, and that’s . . .
Gun Control Act Definitions
The term “Pistol” means 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 chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s);
- and a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).
As I’m sure you know, ATF decided that “when held in one hand” means that a pistol can only have a single grip. Because if a pistol has a second grip then it was designed/made/intended to be fired when held in more than one hand (two or three or four hands, presumably) and is, therefore, not a pistol.
Quick digression, bear with me…here’s the ATF demonstrating for us how they train their agents around the obvious fact that a pistol is intended to be fired “when held in ONE hand” . . .
Anyway…because the resulting gun above apparently can’t be a “Pistol” due to the vertical forward grip, and no other gun category definition makes any sense for it, they call it an “Any Other Weapon,” which is, obviously, a catch-all category.
BUT WAIT! AOW is actually one of two catch-alls, because the definition of AOW doesn’t encompass all guns. You see, to classify as an AOW the firearm must be “capable of being concealed on the person.” Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code says that means a gun that’s under 26 inches of overall length.
Did our benevolent overlords choose 26 inches because they were working on Title 26 of the law and they had the number 26 on the brain? Why not!? That makes about as much sense as any of the rest of this.
The law was also written back when the average bloke was like a foot shorter (not a foot shorter than Dan, but definitely a foot shorter than me) and for some reason they measure overall length in the gun’s longest configuration (e.g. folding or telescoping stock in its longest position).
Don’t expect anything to make sense here, okay?
So this AR-15, also in the same auction, definitely isn’t a pistol. It has two grips (again, the handguard with the rail covers to make it more comfortable in the hand doesn’t count, but the vertical forward grip does). If it’s under 26 inches of overall length it’s an AOW and therefore a 10-year federal felony. It’s it’s over 26 inches long then it’s a firearm.
Sorry, a “Firearm.” That’s right. The other catch-all definition is simply called “Firearm” and it encompasses a bunch of shooty bois that aren’t Pistols, Rifles, Shotguns, Short Barreled Rifles, Short Barreled Shotguns, Destructive Devices, Machine Guns, Silencers, or Any Other Weapons.
One time, in what’s definitely a made-up story that’s purely for your entertainment and edification, I had a co-worker who showed me a photo of his Smith & Wesson M&P15-22. He purchased it in pistol flavor back when they offered it with nothing on the rear (no pistol brace). He later bought an AR-15 shoulder stock and put it on the gun and that’s how it was configured when he showed me the photo.
I informed him — much to his complete and honest shock and surprise — that he committed a major felony and he should delete those photos and never speak of it again. I then sold him a pistol brace.
The point of creating this made-up story for you is to further illustrate how these laws are so inanely idiotic that it doesn’t occur to most normal people that they might be violating one of them. It doesn’t even occur to a Texas Sheriff’s office that they have at least one, maybe two illegally-configured guns not only in their possession, but up for sale!
Twenty-six inches or more? No problem. But 25.9 inches? FELONY! A major felony. Good times.