The Justice Department on Friday announced new rules governing popular gun gadgets called “stabilizing braces” that attach to the back of a pistol so that the firearm can be braced against a shooter’s shoulder for greater stability. Such braces in effect convert the gun, if its barrel length is less than 16 inches, into a “short-barreled rifle,” kind of like a sawed off shotgun, and those are subject to special licensing and taxation under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA).
Owners of these weapons will have 120 days to register them with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the agency that carries out whatever minimal firearms regulations the USA does. During that period, owners won’t have to pay the $200 tax for firearms and firearm accessories covered by the NFA, which include silencers, fully-automatic machine guns, and short-barreled boomsticks. Or they can get rid of the braces, or turn the guns in to ATF.
ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said in the DOJ press release that the rules on pistol braces conform with what Congress had in mind when it passed the NFA in the first place — an argument about “history and traditions” that will surely come up when the NRA and other gun lobbyists sue in federal court to undo the rule.
In the days of Al Capone, Congress said back then that short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns should be subjected to greater legal requirements than most other guns. The reason for that is that short-barreled rifles have the greater capability of long guns, yet are easier to conceal, like a pistol. But certain so-called stabilizing braces are designed to just attach to pistols, essentially converting them into short-barreled rifles to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, they must be treated in the same way under the statute.
You might be surprised to learn that the regulations apply to a lot of firearms that already look like rifles, because they have the same basic gun innards (to use the technical term) as familiar semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 and knockoffs or the AK-47, but are considered “pistols” because they don’t have a stock. Like this absurdity with a silencer we found on the You Tubes:
Video screenshot, Magic Prepper on YouTube
As the dude in the “Magic Prepper” video points out, it’s pretty ridiculous to call that thing a “pistol” anyway, which is kind of the unstated point of the ATF rule: these things are pretty much never sold without the “pistol brace” accessory, which gives the user greater stability while handling the gun. A couple more examples, from the ATF list:
So why are there such things as AR-15-based “pistols” in the first place? Turns out they were mostly created to get get around certain provisions of the 1994 assault weapon ban. Hey, that’s not an assault weapon! It’s lighter than the rules, so it’s a “pistol!”
Then in 2012, long after the ban had expired, a veteran invented a pistol stabilizing brace to help disabled gun fans have better control of their “pistols,” using a brace that wrapped around the user’s forearm with Velcro, comme ça:
Video screenshot, Lucky Gunner Ammo on YouTube
This rule does not affect “stabilizing braces” that are objectively designed and intended as a “stabilizing brace” for use by individuals with disabilities, and not for shouldering the weapon as a rifle. Such stabilizing braces are designed to conform to the arm and not as a buttstock.
Nonetheless, there’s suddenly an outsized concern on the part of gunhumpers about how the rule will infringe on the rights of people with disabilities, just like America’s anti-LGBTQ+ bigots have suddenly become obsessed with the fairness of women’s athletic competition.
As you can see in the ATF examples, many pistol stabilizing braces still include the Velcro — perhaps so manufacturers can claim they’re intended as a mobility aid. But the real attraction for nondisabled gunners is that many of the braces allow the “pistols” to be braced against the shoulder, as demonstrated here:
Video screenshot, MarksmanTV on YouTube.
As the Indiana gun shop owner notes in that video, “pistol” versions of the AR-15 and other semiautomatic rifles have been around since the 1990s, but didn’t sell very well because they were “difficult to use in this configuration.” Once the pistol stabilizing brace came around, then sales took off. Today, he notes, such “pistols” are “always marketed and sold with the stabilizing brace attached because it does undoubtedly make it more usable, more ergonomic, and more controllable.”
And that’s precisely why the DOJ is issuing the new regulations, because hey, these damn things are nearly useless as “pistols,” but they’re pretty popular when the braces turn them into short-barreled rifles — which again, are subject to regulation under federal law.
Predictably, the new regulations have set off the usual howls in Gun World, as a quick search for “pistol brace ATF” confirms. Here are just a few of the completely calm video titles:
It’s worth pointing out that, no, pistol braces haven’t been “outlawed” exactly, since they’ll still be legal if owners register them (and again, for the first 120 days, they can do that with no fee) and meet the enhanced federal background check required by the NFA. But yeah, they’re subject to tighter regulation now, and hell, that’s a good idea.
As President Biden noted in his statement on the new regulations, mass shootings have been committed with these more easily concealed weapons, like the 2019 mass shooting outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine and injured 27 in less than 30 seconds, and the 2021 mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10. Biden added that there’s much still remaining to do, including banning assault weapons again.
So yes, please. For all of the fulminations by the gun crowd that this is another step toward tyranny, that line of bullshit just isn’t convincing anyone except extremists anymore. We’re far more concerned about the nice armed patriots who constantly fantasize about shooting librarians and school boards and hospitals that serve trans people, frankly.
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