House Judiciary Committee ATF hearing
(image courtesy House Judiciary Committee)
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There were fireworks at a Congressional hearing covering a critical topic not just to the firearm industry and Second Amendment supporters, but to all Americans. It wasn’t entirely unexpected.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance’s hearing titled, “ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?” posed a simple question.

Who writes law in the United States? That begged other questions. Can government agencies go rogue and create sweeping regulations that turn law-abiding citizens into criminals? Or does law-making authority reside with the people through their duly elected representatives in Congress?

The Background

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) promulgated a new Final Rule in January with drastic implications for millions of existing law-abiding gun owners. The agency unilaterally decreed that stabilizing arm braces attached to pistols are now defined as short-barreled rifles (SBRs) subject to registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA). That means owners who already legally purchased the firearm accessory must register their purchase, submit photos and fingerprints, pass an additional background check and alert local law enforcement that they possess one. If they don’t, they risk facing felony charges and imprisonment. The Congressional Research Service estimates there could be upwards of 40 million braces in circulation today.

Alex Bosco testified about how we got here today. The former Marine invented the forearm stabilizing brace in 2012 to help disabled veterans more safely participate in recreational pistol shooting.

Alex Bosco (image courtesy House Judiciary Committee)

“Since I began my business, I’ve made every effort to comply with all the rules and regulations set out by ATF. After submitting the original brace to ATF for review, ATF responded in writing stating that attaching a stabilizing brace – quote – would not alter the classification of a pistol or other firearm, and that – quote – such a firearm would not be subject to National Firearms Act controls,” Bosco explained. He added ATF has “repeatedly held that various pistol brace designs did not convert a pistol to a short-barreled rifle.”

That all changed once ATF reclassified stabilizing arm brace-attached pistols as SBRs, putting Bosco’s livelihood, and millions of other law-abiding Americans, at serious risk.

Whose Authority?

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) asked the central question of who writes law for the United States.

Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas (Jason Andrew/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

“Ever since Mr. Biden took office, his administration has actively sought to infringe on the Second Amendment and I’m deeply concerned about the ATF and their recent actions,” Rep. Fallon said. “This rule will effectively turn millions of law-abiding gun owners into criminals if they fail to comply even though Congress did not act. We didn’t pass any new criminal laws or penalties related to pistol stabilizing braces. We had unelected bureaucrats do it. That’s not the way this works.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) echoed, adding that bureaucratic rulemaking is wrong under Republican and Democratic administrations.

“This should send shivers done the spine of all members under Article II,” Rep. Roy said. “And look, I don’t view this through the lens of being a Democratic administration. I didn’t like it when the Trump administration was doing stuff like this. Whether it was the bump stock ban – I didn’t like that either.”

Heritage Foundation’s Amy Swearer agreed the ATF rulemaking is Constitutionally problematic.

“Our Constitution is set up with a separation of powers. You have the Executive Branch, whose job it is to enforce the law and you have Congress who passes laws because Congress is held accountable to the people,” Swearer said. “No official at the ATF… is elected and held accountable through that process.”

The overreach by ATF may be rectified in due time if recent precedent plays out. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overwhelmingly overruled the Trump administration’s ATF Final Rule, saying it overstepped its authority to classify bump stocks as “machineguns.” In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan in West Virginia v. EPA because the agency overstepped its authority with similar rulemaking without clear congressional authorization.

The ATF stabilizing arm brace rule could be headed toward a similar fate.

Know What You’re Talking About

Democratic lawmakers demonstrated they are uninformed about the arm brace accessory.

Democratic lawmakers used terminology like “high-powered,” “increasingly lethal,” and “weapons of war.” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) praised the ATF for usurping her congressional authority “to prevent…the misuse of stabilizing braces, which convert everyday firearms into killing machines.”

Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It was similar to when Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) misidentified an arm brace, confusing it for a bump stock, during a previous debate.

Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-N.C), a Federal Firearms Licensee, asked Everytown for Gun Safety Senior Director for Policy Rob Wilcox about the accessory. “Will a pistol brace change the capacity of a firearm? Meaning the number of rounds?”

“No sir,” Wilcox responded.

“Will a pistol brace change the firing speed of a firearm?” Rep. Edwards continued.

“No sir.” Wilcox answered.

Rep. Edwards asked Bosco about the confusion.

“I think the problem is that a lot of people aren’t informed about what is and isn’t a pistol and what is and isn’t a rifle. It’s very nuanced,” Bosco replied. “A stabilizing brace is not a force multiplier.”

Gun Control Won’t Stop

The ATF pistol brace rule is yet another example of the Biden administration going beyond its authority to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. Gun control groups have grown frustrated that more hasn’t been done, while ignoring the criminals who are the ones committing violent crimes.

Gun control activist Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is removed from the hearing room for disturbing a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Manuel Oliver, whose son was murdered in the 2018 Parkland high school shooting, disrupted the committee hearing, was removed and subsequently arrested. Oliver also disrupted and was removed from a White House ceremony when President Biden announced several gun control executive actions.

The actions by gun control groups, Democratic lawmakers shaming companiesfor not doing their gun control bidding and the ATF overreaching its authority on the pistol brace Final Rule are a pattern. It shows the goal is not to hold criminals accountable. It’s about controlling law-abiding Americans.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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  1. The guy in the article pic, second from the right, raising his had to be sworn, with the glasses and dark suit, the white gut – is a gun control advocate that works for Everytown.

    He is the guy that basically ordered the DOJ and ATF to implement the unconstitutional ‘law’ ‘change’ redefinition for the redefining ‘firearms’ and the stabilizing brace rule. Yes, he ordered them to do it by having a ‘request for proposed rule making’ submitted. This is an unconstitutional and subversive element that has infiltrated and compromised our government to steal law making ability from the only constitutional law making body of Congress and subvert the peoples right to have that body and only that body make law.

    • darn it spell check and fat fingers…

      correction: “The guy in the article pic, second from the right, raising his had to be sworn, with the glasses and dark suit, the white gut – is a gun control advocate that works for Everytown. ”

      should have been …

      The guy in the article pic, second from the right, raising his hand to be sworn, with the glasses and dark suit, the white guy – is a gun control advocate that works for Everytown.

  2. To sense the stench of the Gun Control schemes going on within democRat joe’s regime one must place themselves in the shacks of Blacks living in fear of the Gun Control kkk and the homes and businesses of defenseless Jews living in fear of the Gun Control nazi ss.

    Gun Control zealots know better than to go for the goal post all at once so they go for it an inch at the time. Braces are another inch which they will not gain. In fact all Gun Control inches need to be abolished just like Gun Control’s sidekicks Slavery, lynching, etc.

  3. Congress has been outsourcing “law making” to the executive branch since Obama was in office. They are completely dysfunctional and would rather posture and tweet than do their jobs. And the administration is 100% on board with this. I don’t expect any changes to come of these hearings.

    • Congress has been outsourcing law making to the executive department for decades prior to Obama. I would guess that in order to get a bill passed, soft language without strict guidelines is used, with authority delegated to executive agencies to enact rules to put the Congressional “intent” into practice. Thus we have the bureaucratic state, which Heinlein said may years ago is “self-perpetuating.” It seems that every time a new law is passed, a new executive department is established and funded, with new employees who are accountable only to their own bosses making rules with which we are required to comply under pain of financial penalty.

      • It goes much earlier than Obama. EPA has been calling seasonal ponds on somebody’s property “navigable waterways” in order to impose their rules on it. The Senate just passed resinding it, but it will probably be veroed by Biden.

        • They called the ditch in front of my house navigable because it gets about 4 inches of water in it during the rainy season, I don’t care because it’s actually part of the cities right of way and I don’t plan to do anything except mow it anyway…

      • Repeal the Administrative Powers Act. That’s the outsource in law. A man can dream can’t he.

    • that’s been the norm for FAR longer than that. I seem to recall reading of a former corporate railroad lawyer doing the same thing….back in aout 1850. And the congresss had been doing that with quite a number of their illegal tariffs they imposed on the farming way of life toward the southern part of the country.

      SCOTUS did some other dirty work in the early 1800’s relating to the slave trade, too.

  4. Control?? It isn’t about control. They want to confiscate our property, imprison us in a gulag, and bury us under lime in a trench after a tranny puts a bullet in the back of our skulls. Disarming us is the first step in that process.

    They’ve said as much. If someone threatens to confiscate your stuff and kill you, take them seriously.

  5. I’ve read all 84,281 words of the “final ruling” which “clarifies” the definition of “rifle” by adding six subjective criteria to the definition of “shoulder-fired.” The final ruling muddies the water, making prosecution likely for a lot of folks who fail to pay attention. Most of those tens of thousands of words are there simply to justify BATF’s actions. Before this ruling, a blanket approval of SB design was explicitly given. Now the ruling says that blanket approval was a mistake and is hereby rescinded. Every SB-equipped firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches is now unilaterally declared an SBR. EACH firearm (model) equipped with an SB must be individually and uniquely approved as a pistol by the BATF. Of course, it didn’t help that youtube is filled with videos of people demonstrating how to get around the SBR rule.

    In section IV.B.5.c of the ruling (titled “Political Motivation”) BATF defends the criticism that this action is politically motivated. BATF writes in reply, “Presidential administrations are elected to make policy. And as long as the agency remains within the bounds established by Congress, it is entitled to assess administrative records and evaluate priorities in light of the philosophy of the administration…Thus, even if a rule is ‘‘politically motivated’’ to the extent that a presidential administration’s policies can inform which problems an agency seeks to most urgently address, that fact does mean [sic] the rule is motivated by, for example, animus towards the Second Amendment, as some comments seemed to suggest.” That wordy, lawyeresque phrase can be simply translated as “Yes, we are politically motivated. Get over it.”

    • I’ve read all 84,281 words of the “final ruling” which “clarifies” the definition of “rifle” by adding six subjective criteria to the definition of “shoulder-fired.”

      Anywhere among those 84,281 words was there any mention direct or indirect of how History Confirms Gun Control in any shape, matter or form is an agenda rooted in racism and genocide?

    • any reference tolaws and practices concerning “arms” from the late 1700’s? No? Didn’t think so. Back then flks who wanted to just made their own, or hired someone else to do so. Barrel length was never an issue. Some liked short barrels on the handguns they stuffed into their pantaloons’ waistband. Others preferred horse pistols with VERY long barrels, even long enough to be labelled “rifles” today.

      On WHAT rational or practical basis did ANY FedGov agency or law differentiate between pistols and rifles based solely upon the length of the tube along which the projectile travels? NONE.
      And WHO took that authority away from the Congress and handed it to an executive branch “agency”? And on WHAT basis? And what REALLY astounds me is how ANYONE could be barmy enough to define an indert chunk of plastic with NO movng bits as a “rifle” of any kind? No barrel,m no action no chamber, no pin, no hammer, yet they label that chunk a “rifle” of any sort?

      I’d think the court should have demanded a demostration of that brace (or bumpstock, for that mater) be taken out to soe field somewhere and make those BATF goons use the thing, all on its own, to actuallly FIRE a projectile diwnrange for ANY distance. I took a rubber band off a bunch of asparagus last night and THAT can fling a lead bullet far further than can either a bump stock or a brace.

      I’d love to meet the judge with such a sense of humour and ridicule as to demand this demonstration.
      Then laugh them all right out of his courtroom. With prejudice.

      • Your average American circa 1800 much like their colonial ancestors did not possess the necessary skill set to make their own knives much less firearms. So let us all dispense with the ‘making their own guns’ BS. It is as tiring as the anti gun crowds rhetoric.

  6. The same Sheila Jackson Lee who only days ago called AR-15’s “everyday weapons”? Maybe the two statements can be true: weapons of war and everyday weapons. We’ll just have to be at war everyday. There is some sort of violent uprising scheduled for April Fools Day or so I’ve heard.

    It’s amazing they can stack up the soundbites like “shoulder thing that goes up” and “blow out lungs” and “once all the magazines are empty they’ll be gone” and their constituents just shrug and seemingly agree that it’s okay if their elected officials are complete dumbshits about this subject yet trust them to not be complete dumbshits about other topics.

    • SJL is proving is low IQ people who have the greatest capacity for doublethink. More intelligent people would find the logical contradictions to fail to make sense.

  7. “He {Arm brace inventor Alex Bosco} added ATF has “repeatedly held that various pistol brace designs did not convert a pistol to a short-barreled rifle.”

    They repeatedly made up their minds. In doing so, there are now 10s of *millions* of them in general circulation.

    Surprise! Weapons “in common use” (as determined in the SCotUS ‘Heller’ decision) are expressly constitutional. They had their chance, several of them, in fact, and blew it.

    They can put on their big-boy pants and live with the mess that they themselves made. Their biggest mistake was their decision to run the only possible candidate that could have lost to Trump.

    What they can do now is work on their obviously lacking coping skills, or pack their luggage and go live somewhere else to ruin… 🙂

    • Have I mentioned today just how much I despise the Leftist Scum ™ and their sycophants? 🙁

      • Geoff,

        No, but I never get tired of hearing it, so vent away. Leftist/fascists are living, drooling proof that ‘homo sapiens’ is a misnomer of our species. There is NOTHING “sapient” about MinorLiar or dacian the demented.

  8. The courts have already ruled. After West Virginia vs EPA four coal fired plants in the south east are reopening. ATF has as much rule making authority as EPA, that would be none! Cudos to Patrick Morrissey WV Attorney General and Second Amendment Advocate for pursuing this one. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. He is the only politician, who I donate to regularly and a good man!

    • Did someone figure out rainbow, unicorns, and positive thoughts do not make electricity?

  9. ‘You Have No Idea What You’re talking About!’: Scott Perry Tears Into Gun Safety Advocate.

    At last Thursday’s joint House Judiciary and Oversight Subcommittee hearing about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, REp. Scott Perry (R-PA) questioned Ro Wilcox, the Federal Legal Director at Everytown For Gun Safety.

  10. The ATF unconstitutional actions hearings are not the only thing going on right now.

    JUST IN: Ted Cruz’s Shocking Confrontation With Mayorkas Leads Sec To Call His Conduct ‘Revolting’.

  11. There are certainly times when I want regulatory agencies making the rules and lawmakers to stay out. In terms of Natural Resource Agencies setting limits, seasons, and other tings pertaining to hunting and fishing I would rather have biologists making the calls rather than voters and committees.

    The problem comes when you have certain states stacking agencies and quasi-governmental oversite committees with people on one side or the other. Like they are doing in Washington State.

    Checks and balances go out the window when policy is determined by feelings.

  12. It’s always exciting as a Social Studies teacher to watch those in charge make decisions while unable to use Google to seek definitions or lacking the ability to pass an elementary school test over separation of powers. Sigh. 🙄

  13. As long as Americans remain armed the totalitarian Dems are afraid they will have to fight another civil war or revolution as “We the People” fight back against their desire for total control. They represent the leftist Marxist dictatorship here in America and are pushing really hard to take control. The Covid lockdowns shed light on what they have been trying to do and Americans are waking up. As a result they have become more brazen in their efforts to obtain absolute uncontested rule over this country making it subject to a 1 world government!!!

  14. I’m in agreement with the BATFE, there are no Law Abiding Americans.
    I’m going to the grocery store, gee I hope they have chocolate chip ice cream

  15. If that waste of oxygen Jackson Lee has no problem with an agency overriding her authority, why doesn’t she just resign from congress altogether?

  16. so pistol braces is on the menu in the us congress
    the same week a nutjob uses one in a school shooting
    it could happen i guess
    but theres a catch:
    the nutjob changes her shoes for some reason
    right before shes taken down by the police
    and somehow shes hit by three 5.56 rounds and four 9mm or .40 cal rounds
    and theres no blood anywhere
    not on her clothes
    not on the wall
    not on the floor
    nashville was an operation
    just like uvalde
    and gretchen whitmer
    and cesar sayoc
    and garland texas
    and every other thing

  17. In my dreams, courts will rule that BATFE can say arm braces constitute short barreled rifles, which are in common use (millions exist), and that they are commonly issued to infantry (M4 with 14.5″ barrel), and thus can’t be banned/regulated in NFA by Heller, Bruen, and Miller. The same goes for suppressors and machine guns/bump stocks. I’ll settle for ruling against the regulatory state.

  18. One hundred thousand nine hundred and ninety nine, two hundred thousand. There finished counting my .45acp’s, whew, next the 30-06’s .
    Damn I forgot to get coffee today.
    It was the low spark of high heeled boys.

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