Republicans and gun rights activists unload on new pistol brace regulations

Gun Rights

Gun rights groups and top Republicans shelled out scathing criticisms at the Justice Department’s new firearm regulation submission Friday governing the use of pistol-stabilizing braces.

DOJ officials pitched the new rule as a means of cracking down on a loophole in which gun owners can effectively circumvent existing rules on short-barreled rifles with pistol-stabilizing braces, but detractors slammed the measure as an infringement on the Second Amendment.

A MCK pistol brace for a handgun is displayed with firearm accessories for sale at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Orange County Fairgrounds on June 5, 2021 in Costa Mesa, California.

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“The Biden Administration chose to shred the Constitution today. @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,” the National Rifle Association tweeted.

The DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives announced the new rule submission Friday, and it will go into effect after it’s published in the Federal Register.

Under the regulation, the use of stabilizing braces on pistols will be subject to existing regulations for rifles in the National Firearms Act. This means that pistols with stabilizing braces attachments will face higher taxes, extended wait periods, and registration requirements.

Stabilizing braces can enhance the length of a pistol and may include straps in order to improve the accuracy of the weapon. Once the measure goes into effect, there will be a 120-day period to register existing pistols with the braces to the government. The new rule is specific to stabilizing braces used “to convert pistols into rifles with a barrel of less than 16 inches.” Failure to comply could result in a 10-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine.

“This administration continues to find new ways to attack gun owners, and this time their target is brace-equipped firearms that allow persons with disabilities to safely and effectively use pistols. We will continue to work with our industry partners to amplify the disapproving voices in the firearms industry,” Erich Pratt, the senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, said.

An estimated 3 million stabilizing braces are circulating in the United States, according to law enforcement. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), who previously wrote a letter backed by 140 lawmakers opposing regulation on stabilizing braces, fretted the new rule could imperil millions of legal gun owners.

“I will continue to fight against the ATF’s unconstitutional overreach that could turn millions of citizens into felons,” Hudson said in a statement.

West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also tore into the move.

“Biden’s gun-grabber-in-chief, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steven Dettelbach, has finalized an egregious final rule turning millions of common firearms accessories into ‘short barreled rifles.’ This is a completely nonsensical regulation. We are taking a very close look at the rule and evaluating our legal options,” Morrisey said.


Attorney General Merrick Garland previously tapped the ATF to examine the issue back in April 2021 during an event with President Joe Biden about gun violence. The recommendation came in the wake of shootings in Boulder, Colorado, and Dayton, Ohio, in which gunmen used stabilizing braces.

The National Firearms Act was passed by Congress in the 1930s to impose rules on short-barreled rifles because they are “more easily concealable than long-barreled rifles but have more destructive power than traditional handguns,” according to the DOJ. But that law had not applied to pistols with stabilizing braces that effectively converted them into short-barreled rifles.

“Almost a century ago, Congress determined that short-barreled rifles must be subject to heightened requirements. Today’s rule makes clear that firearm manufacturers, dealers, and individuals cannot evade these important public safety protections simply by adding accessories to pistols that transform them into short-barreled rifles,” Garland said in a press release.

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