New information is coming to light that indicates that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the BATFE or just ATF, is looking to change the criteria for some guns to prevent their import, as well as possibly reclassify some guns, which might restrict or ban their ownership.
This follows on the heels of a confusing declaration that the popular Honey Badger Pistol by Q is a short-barreled rifle, or SBR, subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act, or NFA. While the ATF stayed their initial ruling, this new information may confirm other concerns many gun owners and manufacturers had that this was only a start.
These new charges indicate that the ATF may no longer permit certain firearms from qualifying as pistols under current importation restrictions, as well as reclassify many existing firearms as NFA-regulated items.
Law firm Wiley issued a client alert with some details that may explain what’s going on with the ATF.
“Under [the] ATF’s new interpretation of the handgun definition, millions of AR-15-style pistols could be considered ‘too large or too heavy’ to fall within [the] ATF’s new interpretation, thereby making them unregistered NFA weapons, and subjecting manufacturers and gun owners to criminal prosecution,” explains Wiley.
“Given the private nature of [the] ATF’s classification rulings, and the subjective nature of the analysis, it is extremely difficult to know for sure whether specific firearms fall within the new interpretation,” they continue. “This appears to be part of a continuing trend at [the] ATF to apply firearms statutes in a more restrictive manner without informing the public.”
“In this uncertain regulatory environment, importers and manufacturers should consult counsel before making significant purchasing, importing, or manufacturing decisions for firearms that could be implicated by [the] ATF’s heretofore unknown and undisclosed analysis,” says Wiley.
While the ATF doesn’t publicize all of their internal rules used to classify firearms, in some letters the agency indicates that certain features may be used to qualify certain former pistols as rifles without any “sporting purpose.”
Those features include the use of rifle sights, a “rifle-length” barrel, an upper weight limit, the ability to accept magazines with a greater than 20-round magazine capacity, the ability to accept magazines that “contribute to the overall weight of the firearm” and an overall length that “creates a front-heavy imbalance when held in one hand.”
One particularly confusing feature is whether the firearm is chambered for certain cartridges typically used with rifles and carbines, like 5.56 and 7.62 NATO — while at the same time qualifying these cartridges as pistol ammunition to prevent some types from being imported as well.
But one of the biggest concerns is that the ATF may consider some pistols Any Other Weapons, or AOWs, under the new definitions. The agency may redefine any firearm that isn’t a pistol, rifle or shotgun under 26 inches long as an NFA-regulated AOW, subject to registration and taxing.
This may be used to classify an impossibly large number of firearms, often sold as pistols with braces, as NFA items. This could also lead to big problems for existing gun owners.
Fears that the ATF may be coming after the large-frame pistol market, not just the Honey Badger, may be justified. Stay tuned for updates.