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Gun rights activists are pledging to fight a new rule proposed by the Biden administration that could turn millions of gun owners into potential felons.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on Monday proposed a new regulation that would define a handgun as a short-barreled rifle if it is equipped with a stabilizing pistol brace, a popular gun accessory. The rule would make most guns equipped with such a brace illegal under the National Firearms Act, requiring gun owners to either register, forfeit, or disassemble their weapons or else they be charged with a felony offense.
According to one government estimate, as many as 40 million gun owners could be affected by the rule change.
“[W]hen individuals use accessories to convert pistols into short-barreled rifles, they must comply with the heightened regulations on those dangerous and easily concealable weapons,” the Department of Justice said in a statement announcing the new rules. President Joe Biden’s DOJ claimed that stabilizing braces “make it easy for people to convert pistols into these more dangerous weapons without going through the statute’s background check and registration requirements.”
The proposed rule is a fulfillment of an executive order issued by President Biden.
ATF states that a gun with a brace that is intended to be fired from the shoulder by its manufacturer will be considered a short-barreled rifle. ATF has created a complicated “worksheet” that implements a point system to help owners, retailers, and regulators determine if a gun with a stabilizing brace should be classified as a pistol or instead as a rifle. Factors under consideration include measures like the weight or length of the firearm, the design of the brace, but also “peripheral accessories” that may be attached to the gun like “flip-up sights.”
The agency said stabilizing braces that are intended for individuals with disabilities and are not used for shouldering the weapon like a rifle would not be affected by the rules change.
Gun owners in possession with a handgun equipped with a stabilizing brace that meets the ATF’s proposed definition of a short-barreled rifle must pay a $200 tax stamp and apply to register the weapon with the agency as a rifle. If they do not wish to do so, they would have to remove the brace or remove the short barrel and attach a 16-inch or longer barrel to the firearm so that it does not fall under the provisions of the National Firearms Act. Failing that, they could either destroy their weapon or turn it over to a local ATF office, which opponents say is tantamount to gun confiscation.
ATF will receive comments on the rule for 90 days before it is posted in the Federal Register.
According to the ATF’s estimate, between 3 million and 7 million braces are owned by American gun owners and approximately 1.9 million would be affected by the rule.
Gun rights activists blasted the rule as too far-reaching, pointing to estimates that indicate tens of millions more gun owners would be impacted than ATF claims.
“Today’s proposed rule making on pistol-braced firearms represents a gross abuse of executive authority,” Aidan Johnston, director of Federal Affairs for Gun Owners of America, said in a statement. “Millions of otherwise law-abiding gun owners now will be forced to destroy, register, or surrender their lawfully-acquired pistol-braced firearms.”
Alex Bosco, the inventor of the stabilizing brace, told the Reload that his company, SB Tactical, manufactured and sold at least 2 million of their best-selling SBA3 model braces alone, which would be outlawed under the proposed ATF rules. SB Tactical makes several other models of stabilizing braces and there are at least seven other manufacturers who compete with them, The Reload reported.
An April 2021 estimate by the Congressional Research Service said there are between 10 and 40 million braces owned by American citizens.
“It will be the largest gun registration, destruction, and confiscation scheme in American history,” Bosco said.
Gun Owners of America and other activist organizations have promised to fight the ATF’s rule during the comments period.
“Gun owners are disgusted by today’s blatant infringement on their right to keep arms by the Biden Administration,” Johnston said. “Gun Owners of America will work to defeat these unlawful regulations during the comment period or, failing that, through legal action.”
“Just as FPC did when the Trump Administration’s DOJ lawlessly declared that bump-stocks were machine guns, we will use every available resource to defend the People’s human right to keep and bear arms from attacks by the ATF,” said Adam Kraut, Firearms Policy Coalition senior director of legal operations. “We stand ready to defend the People, human liberty, and personal property in this rulemaking process and, if necessary, in court.”