Less Than 10 Percent of Pistol Braces Registered With ATF by Deadline
Multiple lawsuits are pending as regulators mum on enforcement
By Michael Clements – June 5, 2023
Only 255,162 of the millions of pistol-stabilizing braces known to be in civilian hands have been registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by the May 31 deadline set by the agency.
“Possessors of such firearms were also provided the option to comply with the final rule by permanently removing and disposing of, or altering, the ‘stabilizing brace’ such that it could not be reattached or by destroying the firearm,” Erik Longnecker, deputy chief of the ATF’s Public Affairs Division, told The Epoch Times by email on June 3.
“ATF is unable to estimate the number of possessors of such firearms that used either of these methods to comply with the final rule. Likewise, we have no data currently available for the number of firearms abandoned to ATF.”
Pistol brace owners have been estimated at between 3 million and 40 million, so the number of registered owners is anywhere from 0.6 percent to 8 percent. This doesn’t consider the pistol brace owners covered by injunctions issued by federal judges.
On Jan. 13, the ATF issued criteria for the firearms, outlining that pistol-stabilizing braces converted pistols into short-barreled rifles (SBR), which are regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968.
That rule went into effect on Jan. 31.
At that time, the ATF set a 120-day amnesty period in which owners of pistols equipped with the devices could register them without paying the $200 NFA tax. The amnesty period expired on May 31. Owners of pistols with unregistered devices could be charged with a felony and face up to 10 years in prison, $10,000 in fines, or both.
Longnecker wouldn’t elaborate on how the ATF would enforce the rule.
“(ATF is) unable to comment due to ongoing litigation,” Longnecker’s email reads.
However, parties in at least three lawsuits are protected while their cases are being heard.
The state of Tennessee will no longer regulate AR-15-based pistols, like these. However, state officials warn that federal regulators are writing rules for these weapons. (Michael Clements/The Epoch Times)
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction just before the deadline, which has protected Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) members and Maxim Defense customers from the rule.
Judges also issued injunctions in one lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation (pdf) and another lawsuit by Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Gun Owners Foundation (GOF), and the state of Texas (pdf).
According to the FPC website, the court will hear oral arguments in its case, Mock v. Garland, on June 29.
FPC didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
Joining FPC as plaintiffs are Rainier Arms and individuals Samuel Walley and William Green. They’re suing the ATF, ATF Director Steve Dettelbach, the Department of Justice, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
On its website, GOA posted statements vowing to fight what the group considers an unconstitutional rule. The GOF called on Congress to take action to rein in the ATF.
“While Congress was slow to act on this wide-reaching rule, GOF stepped in to defend the millions of Americans facing legal jeopardy,” Sam Paredes of the GOF wrote in a statement. “We are proud to have helped partially halt this rule, and hope it sends a message to anti-gunners hellbent on continuing the assault on the Second Amendment.”
According to a statement on the Second Amendment Foundation website, U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle granted a preliminary injunction against the rule in the Foundation’s lawsuit, SAF et al. v. ATF et al. The suit is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas.
“When Joe Biden took office, he immediately began weaponizing the ATF, and this new pistol brace rule is a result of that strategy. In the process, they’re turning millions of law-abiding citizens into criminals. We can’t allow that without a fight,” Sam Gottlieb, Second Amendment Foundation executive vice president, wrote in a statement on the foundation’s website.
Brace Invented in 2012
The pistol-stabilizing brace was invented in 2012 to assist the disabled and others who may need help shooting large-format pistols built on the AR-15 and similar platforms. The stabilizing brace attaches to the rear of the pistol and the shooter’s forearm. This allows the shooter a steadier aim while holding the pistol with one hand.
The ATF previously issued several open letters stating that the braces didn’t change pistols into SBRs. However, the rule published in January said that changes in the braces’ design and videos on how to use them make it clear that the items convert the large-format pistols into prohibited SBRs.
Since then, the ATF has advised owners of the devices to either remove the braces and render them unusable, register pistol-brace-equipped firearms with the government, or convert the pistols into what the regulator lists as legal rifles.