Firearms attorney Joshua Prince posted an alert last night regarding a move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to institute a rulemaking with regard to pistol braces. He had been given a draft copy of their proposal. Included in that proposal which I have embedded below, was a plan for DOJ to “subsequently implement a separate process for current possessors of stabilizer-equipped firearms to choose to register such firearms in compliance with the NFA.”
As Mr. Prince notes, the BATFE seems to be planning only a 14-day comment period which seems to be in violation of the law. With the incoming and virulently anti-gun Biden Administration, one must wonder whether adherence to the law will matter to them. Even before the Electoral College met, the leadership of BATFE in the persons of Acting Director Regina Lombardo and Deputy Director Marvin Richardson (no relation) apparently has been reaching out to the Biden Administration on new gun control measures.
The Firearms Policy Coalition sent out a release on this late last night. They offer their initial thoughts on it. I think it is worth reading in its entirety.
WASHINGTON D.C. (December 16, 2020) — Your FPC team is in receipt of a draft notice from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) regarding how the agency will be evaluating weapons with “stabilizing braces.” Based upon our initial review of this notice, we offer these thoughts for your consideration:
1) The draft document does not appear to reflect a new “ban” on pistol braces or firearms with such devices. The ATF, evidently, is not indicating that the mere presence of a brace on a pistol automatically converts the firearm into one under the purview of the National Firearms Act (“NFA”). (Indeed, the ATF has no authority to declare accessories like pistol braces to be NFA components, though the agency’s previous conduct provides little reassurance.)
2) The draft document instead purports to be intended to inform the public on how brace-equipped firearms will be examined in the future. Based on the criteria set forth in the draft document, it appears that the ATF would take something of a ‘totality of the circumstances’ approach in determining whether a specific brace-equipped pistol is a ‘short-barreled’ firearm regulated under the NFA. These criteria include: the firearm’s type, caliber, weight, and length, the design of the brace itself, whether the firearm can be properly aimed when using the attachment as a brace, and whether an optic that cannot properly be used one-handed is present (i.e., something that suggests intent). The agency also indicates that it will observe the marketing of firearms and accessories, as well as other more subjective factors.
3) Importantly, the draft document recognizes that most people with braced firearms have acted in good faith. It suggests that the agency seeks to establish a procedure by which people who already have firearms that may fall under the purview of the NFA, and who wish to take advantage of registering them as NFA firearms to obtain the legal protections of such, may potentially do so without payment of the associated tax.
FPC believes that the NFA is an unconstitutional infringement of the People’s rights, that the ATF should be abolished, and that any policy or practice enforcing the Act is unconstitutional and immoral.
With that said, the policies in the draft document do not appear to be a significant departure from previous publicly undisclosed agency policies, some of which were discovered through criminal prosecutions, FOIA requests, and other sources. Your FPC team will be monitoring the situation closely. If anything changes we will let you know as soon as possible.
While I don’t believe Joe Biden has the cognitive ability to discern whether such measures are legal, I believe he will rubber-stamp any and all such attempts to restrict rights and rewrite both law and regulations. In other words, he will do as he is told.