In our last blog, we talked about the history of pistol braces with regards to the changing gun laws in the US. Let’s move the discussion towards the present state of pistol braces under the Biden administration.
The Biden administration issued executive actions to tighten restrictions on firearms and firearm accessories.
In his April 8 address, President Biden announced six executive actions on gun control. Pressure from Democrats, gun control activists and recent events have urged Biden to announce these four executive actions.
All four actions aim to tighten restrictions on firearms and firearm accessories.
Some of these actions could bring drastic changes to the firearm industry and firearms owners. These actions are:
- The Justice Department has been tasked with proposing a rule to curb the proliferation of ‘ghost guns.’
- The Justice Department shall make clear whether a stabilizing brace turns a pistol into an SBR, and is subject to the requirements of the NFA.
- The Justice Department publishes a ‘red flag’ legislation model for states while urging Congress to pass a national ‘red flag’ law and legislation to incentivize states that follow suit.
- He urged Congress to pass legislation banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and gun manufacturers’ protection from lawsuits.
Biden’s new main focus appears to be on ‘ghost guns’ and ‘stabilizing braces’.
Unlike conventionally purchased firearms, a ‘ghost gun’ is something assembled out of a kit with unfinished firearm parts. These parts do not contain a finished “receiver”, and thus are not considered a firearm, which is why they do not require a background check. Biden wants the Justice Department to curb the proliferation of “ghost guns”, stating that these kits (or parts in it) should have a serial number, the fabricated weapon be legally registered as a firearm, and the buyers go through a NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) background check.
A stabilizing brace is undoubtedly an innovative and useful invention for shooting competitions, self-defense, or recreational shooting for wounded or disabled shooters. Here at F5MFG, we understand it is essential to stop mass shootings and the illegal use of firearms; statistics show that legal gun owners are by far the minority in firearm crimes. We also know reinterpreting the current laws and legally classifying the braced pistol as a short-barreled rifle (SBR) will, in turn, classify law-abiding citizens owning pistol braces as criminals. This clearly impinges their Second Amendment rights as this move would turn responsible gun owners, abiding by clearly written laws into felons overnight.
Executive action is merely a call to action from the President and holds very little legal weight.
When Biden was running for president, he promised to act on gun violence, and these executive actions are the mere ‘call-to-action’ on those speeches. His intentions to work on gun violence as a Senator are commendable, but it should not be his main focus as President. It is our opinion that he should focus more on passing his relief bill and infrastructure package than gun violence, all of which took a back seat when the outcry from the recent Boulder shootings reached a fever pitch.
These days, the President of the United States of America holds a lot of power, creeping up administration by administration. The President can issue rules and regulations called executive orders, but these executive orders are subject to judicial review and interpretation. On top of that, President Biden has issued executive actions, not orders. Executive actions bear little weight as they are not published in the federal register and do not fall under the legal category.
Executive orders, on the other hand, go to the federal register and are legally binding.
The President of the USA has the unilateral powers to make national policies. These powers are expressed with formal directives, officially known as executive orders, as they provide instructions to the officials of the executive branch. These executive orders are published in the federal register and are legally binding. The executive orders can be revoked by the court if found unconstitutional. Once registered in the federal register, they cannot be overturned unless until the next President does so, or the legislation annuls them.
Again, here, President Biden has not issued executive orders. He announced executive actions that do not hold much weight.
Let us now talk about pistol braces in detail and the changing stance of the ATF.
A brief on Pistol Braces.
A pistol brace or a stabilizing brace was invented to help wounded war veterans or disabled people to easily hold and shoot the heavier handheld firearms with one hand. Approved by ATF and widely used by shooters all over the US, the stabilizing brace helps to take more accurate shots. Check out the ‘MBS CYBERARM BRACE’ from ‘F5 Manufacturing. You can use this brace with or without the strap to gain better control of the weapon.
A Pistol Brace and a Buttstock are not the same thing.
There’s a distinct legal difference between a stock and a brace. A pistol brace attaches to the end of the weapon and to the shooter’s forearm to stabilize the firearm. It allows the shooter to take one-handed and accurate shots. It is one of the most innovative inventions for wounded war veterans and disabled people to appropriately use the firearm. The ATF has previously stated that using a brace improperly does not change its legal status.
A stock, on the other hand, is designed to be placed into the shoulder of the shooter. It allows the shooter to shoulder the weapon, to gain better control than just handheld, and to better manage recoil. Using a stock as a forearm brace does not change its legal status.
Although some shooters use pistol braces like a stock, this does not make them both the same thing. As per ATF, a braced pistol when shouldered does not qualify as an SBR. However, the ATF has continued to change its stance on this designation.
- ATF ruling.
According to the ATF, a short-barreled rifle is a firearm that has a rifled barrel less than 16” and an overall length less than 26” with a buttstock. Note that, if a firearm qualifies for an SBR, it needs to be registered with the ATF.
In 2017, the ATF clarified with a letter that attaching a brace to a pistol does not classify it as an SBR as long the overall length of the firearm is less than 26” and it does not include a vertical foregrip. Changing from a brace to a buttstock will qualify your pistol as an SBR.
Unfortunately, the ATF has also made specific rulings in “secret”, not publicly published but discussed openly among manufacturers and lawyers. These rulings have stated that a braced pistol, with a Length of Pullover 13.5” in their eyes constitutes an SBR. Again this is not publicized and has further muddied the water between law, and opinion, especially since this detail has been used to prosecute an individual. This case was thrown out when the ATF tried to measure the Length Of Pull improperly; given this oversight, one could speculate that the ATF does not understand their internal opinions or criteria for developing case law.
The ATF tried to change the designation officially in December 2020 but failed to consider public outrage and invoked the ire of more than 70 thousand negative comments.
While Federal regulations mandate a 90 day comment period, the ATF gave only 14 days for the comment period commencing the day it was published in the federal register. It is not known how this regulation was sidestepped. The regulatory change started the two-week period around Christmas holidays, wherein most people wouldn’t come across such news. Given these circumstances, the firearms community still managed to post 73,536 comments in this brief period. The agency decided to publicly announce that they were going to table the issue after only a week.
- Why so much stress on Braces?
Pistol braces are under consideration, drawing attention from Democrats and gun control activists majorly because of misunderstood or misguided reasons. Some of these reasons are:
- Pistol braces allow the heaviest full-sized firearms to be “handheld” and highly stable and easy to shoot.
- The firearm used in Boulder, Colorado shooting was sold with a pistol brace. This has caused speculation that this pistol brace enhanced the shooter’s effectiveness in this mindless tragedy.
- Many anti-gun advocates have never shot a gun, and don’t understand the issues relating to them in a technical manner.
- Impact on law-abiding gun owners.
In 2012, when pistol braces were given ATF approval, it didn’t take any time at all for braces to become all the rage. Pistol braces were sold in huge numbers and many companies quickly capitalized by manufacturing and selling their own stabilizing braces. Today, approximately 3-4 million+ braced firearms are owned by responsible gun owners in the US. Any change in the legal status of the braced pistols would turn the law-abiding gun owners into felons overnight without the passing of new laws, and no due process. The gun owners could be charged for violating the federal law, of which penalties are $10,000 in fines and ten years of imprisonment or both.
Till the time ATF again comes forward with a new proposal for SBR classification, we must steel ourselves to fight for gun owners’ rights and to help all of us legally practice our Second Amendment rights.