The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has, by the stroke of a pen, made over 4 million people criminals based on their ruling on pistol braces.
While most are familiar, a quick synopsis is that for years, people have been using molded plastic as a pistol stabilizing brace on the AR/AK style platforms providing people who operate such platforms with a barrel below 16” to shoot more comfortably and accurately. In tens to hundreds of letters, the ATF had stated that even shouldering such devices was legal and didn’t constitute a short-barreled rifle.
However, that ended in 2023 when the ATF decided that despite them allowing the sale, saying it was acceptable, said that it was now illegal to own.
The gun owner had a few choices. The first was to take the brace off. Ok, doable. Second, they could register their pistol now as a short barrel rifle, without paying the $200 fee for a tax stamp. Not awesome, but ok. Finally, if you did neither, you would now be breaking the law, which carries a huge fine and up to 10 years in jail.
Now, I am not a legal scholar, but I am skilled in some common sense. The first major issue I see is now millions of people have spent money on a product that was assured to them as legal. Imagine you’re buying anything else, a car, a TV, or a home and some regulatory agency (not a legislative agency that can make laws) now says what you spent money on is illegal.
Sorry, we changed our mind, and you are now either unable to use that product or if you do you go to jail.
Let’s try that with any other item in your home and see if that passes the commonsense test. Would you be ok with the FCC saying you now had to give up your cell phone or register it to be collected at any time and place by agents?
The second thing that really chaps my behind is that the ATF has been allowed to make these rules at the behest of our congressional leaders. The head of the ATF a few months ago couldn’t even tell the senators questioning them what the fine and imprisonment time was for violating their own rules.
There was a story that was circling around in the mid 90’s of Senator Feinstein showing similar knowledge when handed a Shotgun News ad for firearms. When asked if she would show which ones were banned, she circled half the page but made numerous errors like circling the composite black Mini-14, not the wood Mini-14, a firearm that literally is identical.
This is the same agency that brought you incidences such as Ruby Ridge, where it has been proven they illegally entrapped a man, Randy Weaver, to make them illegal sawed-off shotguns. When that Weaver refused to be used as a spy, a standoff ensued which resulted in the killing of his dog, his son, and his wife who was shot while holding their infant child, and one of their agents.
Knowing they were in trouble of defunding, the ATF made a spectacle out of David Koresh and Waco siege, which killed 80 people.
I don’t mind laws. I obey the speed limit (mostly), I pay taxes (because I must), and I am overall a law-abiding citizen. I don’t rob, rape, murder, or steal. This is like millions of other Americans who have become instant felons because of the ATF, an agency that is arbitrarily deciding whom to prosecute.
But with a successful compliance rate of 0.04% of the 4 million brace owners, I am glad to see there are Americans who are willing to stand up to what is unquestionably a poor ruling, and an unconstitutional institution.
Author: Ian Bolser