In another attempt to restrict the right of the American people to bear and keep arms, ATF has once again published in the federal register, “Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached Stabilizing Braces.” Signed by Biden’s Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, the document of the proposed rules (2021R-08) is based on Joe Biden’s executive decree that asks the ATF to clarify the position of stabilizing pistol braces.
The Proposed Rule and The Worksheet
The proposed rule aims at evaluating firearms equipped with a stabilizing brace to determine whether the firearm would be considered a ‘braced pistol’ or an ‘SBR’ under the Gun Control Act of 1968, subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act. This document is open for public comments for 90 days. It is very closely related to the document published in late December 2020 with little to no changes.
The only significant change from the December 2020 proposed ruling is of the ‘Worksheet 4999’ that allows firearm owners to evaluate their ‘braced pistol’ as per ATF guidelines.The worksheet aims to “score” the firearm. If this score exceeds 4, the gun needs to be registered as a Short Barrel Rifle, and if the score is less than 4, the firearm is considered a braced pistol. ATF has now placed all the clear and unclear guidelines from over the years into a single worksheet to give a better ‘clarity’ as it pertains to this matter. However, these are so severe that most of the braced pistols in the US are sure to become illegal if this ruling is forced upon gun owners.
The Contradictory ‘Intended Use’
The new proposed rules take into account not just the design of the firearm with an attached stabilizing brace but also its intended use by the consumer. In 2015, the ATF stated their opinion that stabilizing brace, when shouldered, changes the intended use of the firearm. But, later retracted their statement a year down the road establishing the fact that shouldered or not, a brace does not change the intended use of the firearm and that the owner “misusing (apparently)” the brace isn’t part of their ability to regulate. However, ATF now targeting the intended use of the braced pistol is a radical change from their previous statements.
The Accessory Characteristics
After a firearm has passed the prerequisite of weighing a minimum of 64 ounces with an Overall Length between 12 and 26 inches, it will be rigorously checked for its accessories not to have the characteristics that qualify it for an SBR.
- Accessory Design. The more features of the stabilizing brace design resemble the design of the shoulder stock, the more points it will get.
- Braces with no design matching feature with the stock won’t score any point.
- A brace with one or more design features that match the design of the stock will score one point, and
- The brace, which is the modified version of a stock, will score two points.
- Rear Surface Area. The rear surface area of the stabilizing brace in similarity with stock is yet another characteristic that ATF aims to analyze.
- The rear surface area that makes the brace impossible to shoulder wouldn’t score any points.
- The minimal rear surface area that makes it possible to shoulder would score one point.
- A sufficient area to shoulder the brace would get it 2 points.
- A brace that uses material clearly designed to increase rear surface area to make it shoulder the firearm would score 3 points.
- Adjustability. As per ATF, the adjustability feature comes only with weapons that are meant to be fired from the shoulder.
- Firearms with the non-adjustable stabilizing brace will score o points.
- The ones with the adjustable brace will score 2 points.
- Stabilizing Support. Support is the primary function for which stabilizing braces were invented and used. ATF considers different stabilizing devices with the support they provide based on three main categories;
- The counterbalance design. As per ATF, firearms with a counterbalance design brace are meant to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, it will score 1 point.
- The fin-type design. Firearms with a fin-type brace design that has no arm strap of a suitable length will score 2 points, and the ones with the arm strap will not score any point.
- The cuff-type design. The cuff-type brace design that completely wraps around the shooter’s arm will score 0 points. The ones with partial wrap around the shooter’s arm will score 1 point, and the ones that do not wrap at all will score 2 points. The split-stock stabilizing brace design will score 3 points.
- Length of Pull. The more the brace is positioned rearward, the more points it will score.
- Firearms with a length of pull (LoP) less than 10 1/2 inches will not score any points.
- LoP between 10 1/2 and 11 1/2 inches will score 1 point.
- LoP between 11 1/2 and 12 1/2 inches will score 2 points.
- LoP between 12 1/2 and 13 1/2 will score 3 points.
- LoP of 13 ½ or more will score 4 points.
- Attachment method. ATF will also analyze the attachment method of the stabilizing brace to the firearm.
- The braced pistol with a buffer tube extending 6 to 6 ½ inches from the rear of the firearm will score 0 points.
- Firearms with a buffer tube with adjustment notches will score 1 point as it gives the freedom to adjust to the brace.
- Firearms with buffer tube more than 6 ½ inches, folding adaptors, and the use of spacers will score 2 points.
- Any modified attachment method that increases the length of pull will score 3 points.
- Brace modifications/configuration. Modified stabilizing brace accessories will be analyzed by the ATF.
- Cuff-type or fin-type accessories with a very short arm strap or an elastic arm strap will score 2 points.
- A fin-type accessory with no arm strap will score 2 points too.
- Any modification to the brace turning it into a shouldering device will score 4 points.
- Peripheral accessories. Accessories like secondary grips, hand-stops, flip-up rifle-type sights, sights and scopes with limited eye-relief, and bipods or monopods don’t justincrease the weight of the firearm. They indicate that the weapon is not intended to be fired single-handedly. These accessories on the braced pistol will each score separate points.
To put the gravity of the document in layman’s terms, if the owner has a gun, and it is legal under the worksheet; but later the owner decides to add sights to make the gun usable or just more accurate to fire, the gun could be illegal, and the owner would now be committing a crime.
This brings us to the fact that ATF is still keeping people confused with its regulations for the classification of SBRs. Take a look at the below images of a pistol with different attachments, this showcases the minefield that is about to occur.
The firearm above is considered a braced pistol.. This gun is still legal to possess without any special documentation, tax payment, etc. You can buy this gun from a local gun store, or put this together with parts online you can order (except for the lower).
The same firearm (AR style), with a different buffer tube and brace is not legal without going through the SBR process, involving a long-form background check, $200 tax payment, and lots of paperwork; plus you cannot use/own/transport it like a standard firearm (depending on where you live).
Again, the same firearm (AR style) with 3 additional accessories able to be purchased online, or in any gun store, has just been deemed a crime, if owned without proper tax stamps and background checks etc. Highly technical firearm owners can tell the differences, but most first time gun owners cannot, and might accidentally commit a crime.
The US gun laws have always confused and mislead firearm owners. What in the world makes the above guns different? Just a few attachments and the same firearm is categorized differently. These guns are identical sans a few attachments; still, one is classified ‘legal,’ while the other becomes ‘illegal’ once the ruling comes through. This is definitely not a good idea to make one associated with a felony when what they did is just buy a legal firearm with a legal attachment.
The Analysis of the Proposed Ruling
All the guidelines of the ATF sound very harsh and unrealistic on this class of firearms. It should be stated that no matter how one feels about this regulation, it is easy to analyze that the only intention of ATF here is to eliminate the market for this type of firearm.
- Another interesting aspect of this regulation. In the May 7 Personally Made Firearms regulation (the so-called ‘Ghost Guns’ by Biden) that the ATF published, there are a plethora of crime statistics related to those firearms. However in the most recent document released, there are no statistics, only a few cases of shootings (less than 10) using these weapons.. The ATF is not revealing the true story as to how big (or small) of a public threat a braced pistol is, but is merely saying that people need to stop the “skirting” of the SBR laws. This lack of statistics for crimes committed with a braced pistol is likely a point of contention that the ATF will have to deal with in the comments on this situation.
- ATF has set itself five alternatives to creating these proposed regulations. Those five alternatives are
- Proposed alternative – Make ATF Worksheet 4999 the law of the land and regulate braced pistols with this worksheet.
- No changes from what is happening now. It won’t incur costs or have any benefits. This alternative was not implemented becauseATF is “supposed” to uphold the laws as written for a certain category of firearms.
- Super simplified rules for pistol braces. This alternative would consider only one component of how a stabilizing brace or stock would be, e.g., length of pull.
- Grandfather all existing firearms with an attached “stabilizing brace.”
- Guidance documents. It would issue guidance documents instead of enforcing rules. This would make compliance voluntary and not legally enforceable.
- Forgiveness of the $200 NFA tax. This would ask owners to register firearms with pistol braces without paying $200 NFA tax. But, it wasn’t implemented because ATF was under the dilemma that people would get all the firearms registered and later use other kinds of stock or unserialized braces with these firearms.
- If these proposed rules come into effect, US economy will be impacted to a significant degree. Take a look at the screenshot below from ATF’s published document to have a look at primary estimate, minimum estimate, and maximum estimate of costs.
The primary cost estimate stands at $125.7million and the maximum cost estimate stands at $303.5 million. Spending millions of dollars to curb something that was made legal by ATF itself doesn’t seem to make sense to us. This money could be spent better on mental healthcare and gun violence prevention programs instead of regulating a firearm accessory that the ATF cannot specifically link with statistics related to crimes. The firearm industry, too, stands at a risk of losing millions of dollars and a huge loss of jobs.
These are just immediate impacts that our economy and gun owners are set to face if these rules are imposed. The long-term impacts will be seen for years to come. On the other hand, ATF has also clarified that it is free of all obligations to ignore the point system based on things like social media and other forms of communication involving these products. In that case, they could classify a firearm as an SBR even if it scores less than 4 in the worksheet (which is a very possible thing for any braced pistol). Stay tuned for our next blog where we will guide you on how to post relevant comments and make your voice heard.