The recently released new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) rule that reclassifies pistols with a stabilizing brace as short-barreled rifles (SBRs) under the National Firearms Act is cause for concern for millions of lawful gun owners.
The new rule specifies: “For purposes of this definition, the term ‘designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder’ shall include a weapon that is equipped with an accessory, component, or other rearward attachment (e.g., a “stabilizing brace”) that provides surface area that allows the weapon to be fired from the shoulder, provided other factors, as described in paragraph (2), indicate that the weapon is designed, made, and intended to be fired from the shoulder.”
NRA has been repeatedly warning about this pending decision since June of 2021, when ATF first published its new proposed rulemaking on any pistols equipped with a “stabilizing brace.” Upon the announcement of the final rule on Jan. 13, 2023, the NRA immediately spoke out against the drastic change that was made without any legislative action; it was made by bureaucrats at the request of a president who wants to ban many commonly owned firearms.
“The Biden Administration chose to shred the Constitution today,” the NRA tweeted right after the announcement. “@ATFHQ submitted their pistol brace ‘final rule’ to the Federal Register and demanded Americans either ‘register’ or ‘surrender’ their lawfully owned rifles.
“Joe Biden is an enemy of our Second Amendment.”
In a news alert to members, NRA’s Institute for Legislative action wrote, ”While it is not the role of an administrative agency to add to a congressionally enacted statutory definition, doing so in such an arbitrary and nonsensical manner is especially damaging to the rule of law.”
“Creating a firearm classification that is contingent on a firearm having rear surface area, without even providing a measurement for how much area is sufficient to trigger the classification, is the exact type of arbitrary rule making the Administrative Procedures Act (and the Due Process Clause of the Constitution) prohibit,” continued NRA-ILA. “The new ‘standard’ seems clear: ATF will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a given firearm is subject to the NFA, and American gun owners will face felony consequences at the whims of bureaucratic decision makers.”
In fact, the ATF’s propensity to exceed its authority by making laws, rather than enforcing those passed by Congress, is nothing new. On Jan. 6, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ATF’s rule classifying bump stocks as machine guns, and called out the ATF in the process. That court said that the rule “purports to allow ATF—rather than Congress—to set forth the scope of criminal prohibitions.”
SB Tactical, a manufacturer of top firearms accessories, holds several patents for stabilizing braces and owns the trademark for the Pistol Stabilizing Brace. And the new ATF rule didn’t set well with company leaders.
“Under the disguise of safety, the ATF is targeting law-abiding firearm owners, particularly those with different physical needs, with an unnecessary and unlawful infringement of rights,” Jeff Creamer, president and CEO of SB Tactical, stated in a news release. “We will not simply sit back and watch this happen.”
The new rule won’t take effect until it is posted in the federal register. After that, ATF is giving existing owners of affected firearms 120 days to take one of several options provided by the rule. The options generally include either removing the short barrel and exchanging it for one that is longer than 16 inches, filing a Form 1 to “make” the firearm as a short-barrel rifle, removing the brace, surrendering the firearm to ATF, or destroying the firearm.
The NRA is already preparing litigation to challenge the rule in court.