The ATF’s New Pistol Brace Rule Is A Cluster Of Enforcement Traps

First, They Came for the Bump stocks, and I did not speak out

because I did not own one…

Then they came for the pistol braces, and I did not speak out

because I did not own one…

You’ve probably heard of the federal fiasco that is the new pistol brace rule and wondered why you should care. Our little homage to First They Came for the Gun Owners should suggest where all of this is going. Let’s start, though, by breaking the latest horrible developments into manageable bites.

To begin, what exactly is a pistol brace, and who would use one?

Pistol braces were originally developed for disabled veterans. The brace is designed to clamp around the shooter’s forearm to help stabilize the weapon. Visually, they resemble a conventional rifle stock. The ATF originally approved them but then reversed course, making up new rules with the force of law as it went along.

Image: ATF badge. Public domain.

So, why is this an issue?

All of this harkens back 89 years ago to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (“NFA”). During its initial legislative sausage-making stages, the act was going to ban handguns. To that end, the act also made it illegal to cut down a rifle or shotgun to make it concealable like a handgun, all so that criminals wouldn’t be able to get around the pistol prohibition.

This is why there are length requirements for rifles and shotguns and case law on sawed-off shotguns and the like. Later on, the bill’s sponsors removed the handgun ban was taken out of the NFA to garner enough votes and to pass constitutional muster.

Most recently, because a pistol brace could also act as a shoulder stock, the ATF decided in its bureaucratic wisdom to reclassify the braces as Short Barreled Rifles (“SBR”) and require owners to register them under the NFA. Those 40 million pistol brace owners, if they do not or cannot get them registered in time, will become felons overnight--or at least 120 days after ATF formally publishes the rule in the Federal Register.

According to the ATF, what’s the difference between a regular rifle and an SBR?

In most free states, if you’re buying a handgun, rifle, or shotgun of the appropriate length, there are no minimum length requirements for these purchases. You simply fill out a 4473, provide the appropriate ID and, once you pass the NICS check, you take your purchase home. You can let someone else touch or even use the weapons without additional paperwork, and you can sell your piece of private property without the need for permission from the government.

(By the way, it’s illegal for the ATF to accumulate records of those sales because Congress specifically banned said accumulation. But, apparently, they’re doing it anyway. What happens when law enforcement breaks the law?)

The normal process to acquire an SBR is far more invasive.

You must provide a lot more information along with fingerprints, photographs, and permission from local law enforcement. You must also buy a $200 tax stamp (a princely sum in 1934, when it was equivalent to $4,429.81 in today’s dollars).

There are other draconian rules for items covered under the NFA Only you can touch them, and you need the government’s permission to bring them across state lines. You’re one missed interstate exit away from committing a felony.

Because the ATF changed its mind midstream about pistol braces by abruptly turning them into SBRs, the ATF has graciously decided to give everyone who has these innocuous pieces of plastic a break. Instead of instantly becoming a criminal, you’ll have 120 days after the rule is published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale of the government. Additionally, the ATF will waive the $200 fee so that you can set yourself up for an early morning no-knock gun confiscation SWAT raid, and it won’t cost you a red cent.

It just warms the cockles of your heart, doesn’t it?

What’s even worse than this abrupt decision to expose people to criminal liability is the fact that, having backed existing pistol brace owners into SBR status, essentially reversing the ordinary process, they’ve also reversed the enforcement.

Normally, you get the ATF’s permission before purchasing an item covered under the NFA. However, in this case, because people already possess an item that’s suddenly prohibited without a license, everything is upside down. Now, you send them all your information, including a photo of the weapon, and then hope that they agree to issue you that license.

An attorney for Gun Owners of America (GOA) has reported that, if this check is delayed more than 88 days, it’s automatically rejected, by which time you’ve already helped the ATF build the case against you. If you’re not lucky, you’ll get to have a long all-expenses paid ‘vacation’ in Club Fed. But that’s only if the local authorities in some regions don’t arrest you first for having an ‘assault weapon.’

That is just for starters. Word has it that the pistol brace is automatically verboten if it’s made of foreign parts, no matter what you do.

So go back to that moment when the rule is published, and the owners of an estimated 40 million pistol braces dutifully send in their applications so that they can be made legal within 88 days. Given that the ATF moves at the speed of government, does anyone want to guess how long it’ll take them to get through all of those potential NFA applications?

So, why is this important to everyone else, the ones who don’t own braces or guns?

At this point, with an administration proudly boasting about its desire to crack down on privately owned weapons, everyone should be mindful of the quote from Atlas Shrugged:

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against... We’re after power and we mean it... There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

Even if you don’t own a gun or never heard of pistol braces, this brings up an important fact aside from the fascist far-left’s ‘progress’ towards tyranny.

Even if you hate guns, you should be mindful of the fact that those guns also protect you and your liberty. You might not care about obscure issues such as pistol braces or safe storage laws. But you should understand how vital it is to hold the line against government encroachment now that the bureaucrats are obsessing over banning gas stoves and have already banned plastic straws and bags all over the place. The slippery slope in controlling your private property started with guns and has spilled out into every other aspect of your life.

This is why the leftist gun-grabbing ghouls keep hammering on their desire for (unconstitutional) control of private property with ‘universal’ background checks and ‘safe’ storage laws. This goes along with the unconstitutional ‘red flag’ gun confiscation dictates as an instant process punishment mechanism, without having to deal with all those pesky Bill of Rights due process and civil rights issues that are the foundations of a free society.

So, those of you who don’t have any guns will be affected by this issue in one way or another. Because the precedent the leftists gain by banning something ‘dangerous’ will be all too attractive to our homegrown socialists. They’re going to look around at what else they can do to make progress toward their authoritarian Utopia.

D Parker is an engineer, inventor, wordsmith, and student of history, the director of communications for a civil rights organization, and a long-time contributor to conservative websites. Find him on Substack.

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