Millions of peaceable Americans lawfully acquired and lawfully own stabilizing braces and braced pistols. The proposed rule is coldly indifferent about the prospect of turning thousands or millions of those Americans into unwitting felons. This sort of abusive regulatory action must be regarded as wholly unacceptable within a free and democratic republic.
NFA penalties are extremely severe, including up to a decade of prison time, massive fines, and the loss of rights that accompanies a felony conviction. It is outrageous to alter rules such that those penalties would threaten ordinary, peaceable Americans, many of whom will be unaware that any rule change affecting them has even taken place — they may become aware at the time that they are arrested.
Furthermore, it is entirely reasonable for brace-owning Americans to assume that they have done nothing illegal or noncompliant. Most gun owners who bought a firearm equipped with a brace even completed an ATF 4473 form for that firearm. They did everything “by the book,” hid nothing, and have every reason to believe that they were, are, and will continue to be in full compliance with the law so long as they commit no criminal acts. The proposed rule change would cruelly pull the proverbial rug out from under them by making them felons on account of their lawful acquisitions.
Even those Americans who are fully aware of the rule change would be put in the position of needing to figure out if the ATF has decided that they are felons. And for these Americans to make that determination, they will need to start by literally weighing and measuring their lawfully-purchased guns. As comically absurd as that sounds, it is precisely what would be required by Worksheet 4999. In reality, there is nothing comical about this — it would be a disturbing state of affairs to observe in an ostensibly free country.
The ATF’s “Options for Affected Persons” are paltry and unsatisfying. Broadly speaking, all of these options amount to uncompensated “takings,” in the legal sense of the term: individuals would lose the utility of their braced pistols through some combination of mandatory separation, destruction, and/or surrender of braces and/or pistols. Braces and firearms are not inexpensive items, and insofar as they function as personal protection tools, they have an especially valuable function within one’s household. Again, the ATF’s cold indifference toward those upon whom the rule would be enforced is evident here.
The Americans who would be made felons by this rule change have committed no crime. They would simply find themselves to be in possession of an item that was declared — outside of our democratic lawmaking process — to be contraband.
That is not a case of citizens violating the law. Rather, it is a matter of the law violating citizens — and that is an intolerable state of governance.