June 5, 2023

Little Compliance for ATF’s Dubious Pistol Brace Rule

The bureau suddenly made millions of Americans felons, but few are playing along.

The Left can give no ground on established gun restrictions, but that doesn’t mean Patriots should give any either. That’s why gun-rights advocates are fighting the ATF’s rule about pistol braces.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So reads the Constitution’s Second Amendment. “Well regulated” means orderly and maintained, not “regulated” in the modern sense of federal bureaucrats telling you what you can and can’t do or own. The militia is “the people.” Our Founders presupposed that a free state requires such armed citizens, so they crafted a guarantee of our right to “keep and bear arms” as a defense against tyranny.

This is anathema to leftist gun-grabbers, of course, which is why their ultimate goal — the point of every incremental infringement they propose and pass — is to destroy and repeal the Second Amendment.

Now for a short history of the ATF’s rule on pistol braces.

“In 2012,” according to The Reload, “the ATF determined the first firearms equipped with pistol braces, which are designed to be strapped to a shooter’s forearm instead of pressed against their shoulder, were not rifles. That meant they were not subject to NFA [National Firearms Act of 1934] regulations even if they had barrels shorter than 16 inches long.” An unknown number of Americans either previously or subsequently purchased perfectly legal pistol braces.

The ATF says there are three to seven million pistol braces out there, while the Congressional Research Service says it’s somewhere between 10 and 40 million. If the ATF is underestimating, it may be to make the infringement seem more minor because the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that firearms in common use are protected by the Second Amendment. Is three million common use? Forty million certainly seems to be.

In any case, the ATF issued contradictory determinations over the years before Joe “Two Shotgun Blasts” Biden came along, and the ATF in January reclassified pistol braces as short-barrel rifles restricted under the NFA. Owners had until May 31 to register those braces — or become felons for owning something they legally bought.

How many people tucked tail and registered? Just over 255,000 — or somewhere between 0.6% and 8%. America exists because the British came to confiscate firearms in April 1775. Just sayin’.

Some argue that both bump stocks and pistol braces were designed basically to circumvent existing laws regarding automatic weapons or short-barrel rifles. Yet the ATF reviewed both and declined to regulate either one until political pressure became too great.

Meanwhile, several federal judges have issued injunctions against the ATF enforcement of the rule, though they protect only members of the gun-rights groups fighting the ATF. Hearings on how to proceed will begin June 29.

Similarly, though, the Fifth Circuit Court decided back in January to block the ATF’s ban of bump stocks, enacted during the Trump administration after the Las Vegas mass murder in 2017. The court said it’s up to Congress, not the bureaucrats at the ATF, to write such bans and rules.

And in 2022, the Supreme Court vacated a ruling upholding California’s ban on standard-capacity magazines. Congress and the states may have some latitude with legislation, but it must comport with the Second Amendment, and the Supreme Court has become more and more friendly to the amendment as it’s written.

Finally, this is not, as Democrats assert, about safety. “Keeping our communities safe from gun violence is among the Department’s highest priorities,” claimed Attorney General Merrick Garland after the rule about pistol braces was announced. The facts about crime are not on his side. Very few murders in the U.S. are committed with rifles or shotguns — fewer than are committed with hands and feet. Most crime is, however, committed in Democrat-controlled urban centers.

This is about Liberty or tyranny. All other questions come under that umbrella.

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