President Biden likes to call the “gun violence” problem in the United States a “national embarrassment.” But you know what’s really a national embarrassment? The ATF’s handling of the “arm brace” issue.
Gun owners feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football. The ATF has issued multiple “rulings” only to reverse course a few years later. In the latest back and forth, the agency declared in October that arm braces transform a large-format pistol into a short-barreled rifle only to rescind that ruling and promise further clarification.
When they released that “clarification,” the document was so vague and unclear the agency was forced to rescind that document and wait until the Biden administration took over.
Now they’ve officially proposed their “final” rule, and let me tell you—it’s just as embarrassing as everything else the ATF has cooked up, and gun owners need to make their voices heard.
Why the Rule is a Threat to All Gun Owners
Arm braces were designed to allow disabled veterans to fire large-format pistols one-handed. Usually, these braces are designed for AR-platform pistols (barrel shorter than 16”), and they’re attached to the buffer tube that normally accepts a collapsible stock.
Thanks to the ATF’s incompetence up to this point, millions of law-abiding gun owners purchased these arm braces with the belief that they do not magically transform an AR-pistol into a short-barreled rifle (SBR). SBRs are heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act, and possessing an unregistered SBR is a federal felony.
Under the ATF’s new proposed rule, however, many of these arm braces will be considered gun stocks, and attaching them to an AR-pistol could land an unsuspecting gun owner in federal prison. As a group of 140 lawmakers told the ATF in a letter dated June 14, the rule would turn millions of law-abiding citizens into felons overnight.
“The proposed guidance is alarming and jeopardizes the rights of law-abiding gun owners and disabled combat veterans across the country,” write the members of Congress.
“Should this guidance go into effect, a disabled combat veteran who has chosen the best stabilizing brace for their disability is now a felon unless they turn in or destroy the firearm, destroy the brace, or pay a $200 tax,” they continue. “Furthermore, it could make millions of law-abiding citizens felons overnight.”
The ATF provided an insanely unhelpful worksheet to determine whether a product is a “stock” or a “brace.” Many braces currently on the market would likely be considered stocks when paired with most AR-pistols, but the ATF gave itself an out even if a firearm somehow managed to meet all the criteria. The new rule states that the ATF “reserves the right to preclude classification as a pistol with a ‘stabilizing brace’ for any firearm that achieves an apparent qualifying score but is an attempt to make a ‘short-barreled rifle’ and circumvent the GCA or NFA.”
In other words, when it comes to arm braces, the ATF will do whatever it damn well pleases—and gun owners can take a hike.
Why Our Comments Could Make a Difference
The ATF brass doesn’t care about gun owners or the Second Amendment. That much is obvious. But they’re required by law to consider all valid comments when proposing a new rule, so it’s critical we flood the agency with respectful, effective comments voicing our opposition.
Here’s one reason to comment: good comments can help litigators fight the rule even after it’s been adopted. According to Harvard Law School, comments are crucial for future litigation: “Your comments help create the administrative record that a federal agency or decision-maker has to consider when finalizing a rule or regulation,” the law school points out.
In addition, if government agencies like the ATF fail to adequately consider public comments, a judge may invalidate the rule at a later date. In other words, if they move forward with the rule, they have to show that they’ve adequately addressed the concerns of the public. With each thoughtful, well-articulated comment advancing a new argument against the rule, that becomes more difficult.
Best Practices for Commenting
First thing’s fist. No profanity. As tempting as it may be, profanity is one of the only things that will get your comment immediately disqualified, and the ATF is looking for any reason to discount as many comments as they can.
Your comment doesn’t have to be long, but it must forward a logical argument as to why the ATF is wrong to implement this new rule for arm braces. As the Firearm Policy Coalition points out, “The more unique comments and different arguments the ATF receives, the more they will have to read and respond to (this is good)!”
Here are a few examples.
EFFECTIVE: “As an executive branch agency, the ATF should not be creating new laws, which is effectively what this rule does. I strongly oppose this rule’s new categorization of ‘arm brace.’ Such decisions should be left to the people’s representatives in Congress.”
EFFECTIVE: “This rule makes it almost impossible to know whether the ATF would consider a product an ‘arm brace’ or a ‘stock.’ For example, under the first criteria, users are supposed to determine whether a brace/stock is ‘based on a known shoulder stock design.’ It’s unreasonable to expect gun owners to know that, but it’s a critical part of determining the legality of a product under this new rule.”
EFFECTIVE: “I’m a law-abiding gun owner, but this new rule will make it impossible for me to know whether any given firearm or product is legal. I don’t want to go to jail just because a product that was legal is suddenly declared illegal based on an arbitrary decision by ATF leadership. The agency said just last year that these products do not turn an AR-pistol into an SBR. I strongly oppose this new rule.”
NOT EFFECTIVE: “The ATF is a Commie apparatus doing the bidding of an illegitimate president, the baby-eating Joe Biden! F— you!”
How You Can Comment Right Now
There are a few different ways to comment, but if you’re reading this on a phone or computer (which you are), then you should comment via the online portal. This minimizes the chances that the ATF will be able to throw out your comment, and it ensures you’ll get your comment in before the August 19 deadline.
- Visit the comment page here.
- Click the blue “comment” button.
- Type your comment into the box.
- Say whether you’re an individual or organization, or want to make a comment anonymously.
- Enter the required information.
- Click submit.
As of June 16, over 59,000 people have submitted comments, and I haven’t been able to find a single one voicing support.