BREAKING: ATF Withdraws “Guidance” for “Stabilizing Braces”

Gun News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 23, 2020) — Today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) issued “the withdrawal of a notice and request for comments” regarding the agency’s recently published “guidance” document captioned “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with ‘Stabilizing Braces’.” The ATF’s notice of withdrawal can be found at FPCLegal.org

On December 16, 2020, FPC published a memorandum entitled “ATF to Issue Guidance on ‘Stabilizing Braces’,” reporting on the agency’s intent to further address firearms with stabilizing brace devices. That memorandum also stated that “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.” 

Two days later, the ATF’s guidance was published in the Federal Register “to inform and invite comment from the industry and public” for a period of 14 days. The notice purported to give the public guidance as to factors that the agency would use to “determine” whether a handgun equipped with a “stabilizing brace” was a firearm regulated by the National Firearms Act (“NFA”). 

Notably, violations of the federal government’s irrational “short-barreled rifle” (“SBR”) laws, such as the ATF implied may be the case as to many with brace-equipped firearms in the agency’s now-withdrawn “guidance,” can lead to serious penalties and up to ten years in prison. Especially given the seriousness of the issue, the public performed their civic duty by submitting objections and comments in opposition to the “guidance” document, including thousands that took advantage of FPC’s free-to-use Take Action tools.

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While the ATF is apparently withdrawing this particular “guidance” at this time, the matter is still “pending further Department of Justice review,” which could lead to ATF taking different and potentially far more aggressive actions in the near future, especially under a Joseph Biden-led administration. Rather than publishing guidance, or conducting a rule-making process with notice and comment under the Administrative Procedure Act, such as the Trump Administration engaged in for its ban on bumpstock-type devices, the ATF and DOJ may simply begin to prioritize enforcement actions based upon their clearly erroneous and dangerously broad reading of the law, such as by arresting and prosecuting those who merely possess a stabilizing brace-equipped handgun.

“The National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act, along with their regulations, clearly state objective criteria as to whether a firearm is a short barrel rifle, short barrel shotgun, or any other weapon,” explained Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy. “It remains evident that ATF’s policy preferences are hostile to law-abiding Americans and the agency’s schizophrenic approach to addressing these issues places individuals at risk of prosecution for simply following and relying on guidance from the agency.”

“The ATF’s withdrawal of their proposed guidance should be the end of the road for this assault on lawful accessories and law-abiding gun owners, but we know better. FPC will continue to carefully monitor and evaluate ATF policies and enforcement practices for violations of the law and our Constitution, and as we have before, rapidly respond with forceful and appropriate action,” concluded Kraut.

Firearms Policy Coalition and its FPC Law team are the nation’s next-generation advocates leading the Second Amendment litigation and research space, having recently filed two United States Supreme Court petitions for certiorari (review) (Folajtar v. Attorney General and Holloway v. Attorney General) and several major federal Second Amendment lawsuits, including challenges to the State of Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons” (Bianchi v. Frosh), the State of Pennsylvania’s and Allegheny County’s carry restrictions (Cowey v. Mullen), Philadelphia’s Gun Permit Unit policies and practices (Fetsurka v. Outlaw), Pennsylvania’s ban on carry by adults under 21 years of age (Lara v. Evanchick), California’s Handgun Ban and “Roster” laws (Renna v. Becerra), Maryland’s carry ban (Call v. Jones), New Jersey’s carry ban (Bennett v. Davis), New York City’s carry ban (Greco v. New York City), the federal ban on the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition by federal firearm licensees (FFLs) to adults under 21 years of age (Reese v. BATFE), and others, with many more cases being prepared today. To follow these and other legal cases FPC is actively working on, visit the Legal Action section of FPC’s website or follow FPC on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

Firearms Policy Coalition (firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend constitutional rights—especially the right to keep and bear arms—advance individual liberty, and restore freedom through litigation and legal action, legislative and regulatory action, education, outreach, grassroots activism, and other programs. FPC Law is the nation’s largest public interest legal team focused on Second Amendment and adjacent fundamental rights including freedom of speech and due process, conducting litigation, research, scholarly publications, and amicus briefing, among other efforts.

NOTICE — POTENTIAL PLAINTIFFS NEEDED!

FPC is urgently seeking individual and FFL plaintiffs for a number of lawsuits that are being prepared to challenge laws and policies that infringe on fundamental rights, including (but not limited to):

  • Laws and policies that prevent individuals from purchasing and/or possessing so-called “assault weapons” (semi-automatic firearms with standard characteristics) and “high-capacity” magazines (standard magazines that hold more than 10 rounds)
  • Laws and policies that prevent adults over the age of 18 but under the age of 21 from purchasing handguns from FFLs 
  • Laws and policies that prevent adults over the age of 18 but under the age of 21 from carrying loaded handguns and other arms outside of their home
  • Laws and policies that prevent individuals from acquiring and/or possessing handguns and other arms without first acquiring a “purchase permit” 
  • Laws and policies that prevent individuals from acquiring or possessing firearms due to a conviction for a non-violent crime, or mental health adjudication that did not involve an involuntary commitment  
  • Laws that prevent honorably discharged veterans from acquiring or possessing firearms because they have been classified as “a mental defective” due to the agency’s determination that they “lack the mental capacity to contract or manage his or her own affairs” because they need assistance managing VA benefits and have a fiduciary

If someone you know meets the criteria above, or if you would be interested in participating in litigation as a supporting FFL, please contact us:

If you would like to support FPC’s many pro-Second Amendment lawsuits, legal action, and research, please chip in $5, $10, $25, or whatever you can at https://www.firearmspolicy.org/donate or Join the FPC Grassroots Army at JoinFPC.org.

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