On Wednesday night the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) withdrew a proposed guidance that would have reclassified millions of AR-15 style pistols and other weapons with braces that stabilize a user’s wrist when firing, to short-barreled rifles, which are much more heavily regulated.
The guidance, posted on the Federal Register on Dec. 18, would have reconsidered pistols with stabilizing braces to be “short-barreled rifles” which are a controlled class of weapon under the National Firearms Act. The change would have required gun owners to either turn in their firearms or register their pistols as NFA firearms and pay a $200 tax stamp if the weapon is accepted. Failure to comply would have made the owners of previously legal pistols felons under the NFA.
The proposed ATF guidance would have required millions of gun owners to either turn in their guns or register them with the government, causing a national uproar from millions across the country.
In a notice announcing its decision to withdraw the proposed guidance and requests for public comment on the potential reclassification of these firearms, the ATF said, “Upon further consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, ATF is withdrawing, pending further Department of Justice review, the notice and request for comments entitled ‘Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with ‘Stabilizing Braces’,’ that was published on December 18, 2020.”
The ATF said its decision to withdraw the guidance does not change any law, regulation, or other legally binding requirement.
The ATF did not respond to a request for comment by American Military News at the time this article was published.
The ATF guidance would have specifically reclassified braced pistols as “short-barreled rifles,” which are a controlled class of weapon under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Owners of NFA firearms are required to apply to register those NFA weapons and pay a $200 tax stamp if the weapon is accepted. Failure to comply would have made the owners of previously legal pistols felons under the NFA.
In 2012, the ATF determined that arm braces for large pistols are not devices that would constitute a redesign of those pistols to an NFA firearm. The decision on pistol braces has since seen a rise in short-barreled, AR-15 style firearms that use these pistol braces, under the understanding that they are classified as pistols by the ATF. In a 2015 letter, the ATF upheld their prior determination, but said shouldering such braces instead of a shooter wearing them on their wrist, would constitute a redesign of the firearm as a short-barreled rifle. In 2017, the ATF changed its position again, allowing the shouldering of pistol braces. The 2017 ATF position found that simply using a legal weapon and firearm part for a use other than its prescribed purpose does not constitute a redesign of a firearm, as the NFA defines the term “redesign.” The latest ATF proposal would have not only reversed the standard on whether pistol braces could be shouldered, but would have criminalized pistol braces that are not registered as short-barreled rifles altogether.
Reacting to the ATF’s notice, the National Rifle Association tweeted, “JUST IN: The ATF withdrew its guidance on pistol stabilizing braces. Thank you to all @NRA members, gun owners, pro-2A members of Congress, @SenateMajLdr McConnell, @RepRichHudson, and all who helped strike down the @ATFHQ’s unsuccessful overreach.
Earlier in the day, the NRA announced 90 members of Congress had signed a letter opposing the ATF’s proposal, tweeting, “BREAKING: @RepRichHudson and 89 other members of Congress signed a letter opposing ATF’s recent pistol brace guidance. Thank you to all NRA members and gun owners who contacted their members of Congress and demanded they protect #2A.”