The ATF proposal to restrict pistol braces on the Federal Registr
The ATF proposal to restrict pistol braces on the Federal Registry / Stephen Gutowski

Americans Flood Biden’s Pistol Brace Ban Proposal With Negative Comments

The Biden Administration’s attempt to ban most stabilizing pistol braces is facing swift backlash.

In only five days, the rule change has received nearly 37,000 comments. That’s tens of thousands more comments than most proposals ever get, and the two other proposals in the Federal Register’s “popular documents” section have just 143 and 8 comments, respectively. The comments on the brace ban were also overwhelmingly negative, with people accusing the administration of overstepping its authority and putting millions of Americans in legal jeopardy. The Reload reviewed dozens of comments and couldn’t find any in support of the rule change.

“This is the most arbitrary set of rules I’ve ever heard of,” said Jack Ort, “and you’ll just make millions of normal Americans into felons despite a complete lack of evidence that these braces are a problem.”

The backlash could jeopardize the proposal if it grows big enough. The Trump Administration withdrew a similar proposal in 2020 after an outcry from gun makers and gun owners. The Obama Administration pulled a proposal to ban a kind of ammunition commonly used in AR-15s after it received more than 300,000 public comments opposing it.

Gun-rights groups have been organizing their members to submit comments opposing the rule since it was published in the Federal Register. Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of Americans, said the group has created an “action center” with tools to help members craft effective comments and an FAQ on what is required to submit a comment. He told The Reload the group is “going all-in on mobilizing gun owners to comment against the ATF’s actions” and is mobilizing members through email blasts, social media messaging, and online advertising.

Adam Kraut, senior director of legal operations at the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), said the take-action pages and email campaigns created by his group have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

“There’s a massive grassroots effort to oppose these proposed regulations and we know our tools are being used aggressively to help spread information and awareness,” Kraut told The Reload.

Tens of thousands of Americans appear to have been mobilized by the groups so far.

“As a law abiding American citizen who is an active member of FPC and the NRA it comes as no surprise that this proposed ruling would retroactively result in making millions of other law abiding citizens felons,” Matthew Wanamaker said. “There is zero threat posed from stabilizing braces.”

Gun-control groups are not engaging in a similar comment campaign to support the proposed change. Neither Brady United nor Everytown responded to requests for statements, nor do those groups appear to have sent emails to their members encouraging them to comment on the proposal.

Biden’s proposal is aimed at people who own firearms made using popular designs, such as the AR-15, but that have a barrel shorter than 16 inches. Under the National Firearms Act of 1934, guns that are designed to be pressed against the shoulder while firing but which have a barrel shorter than 16 inches must be registered with the ATF, and owners must pay a $200 tax. The ATF has approved a number of braces in recent years that replace shoulder stocks and are instead designed to strap to a user’s forearm, but the new proposal would reclassify most guns with the braces as short-barrel rifles and require owners to register, dismantle, or forfeit them in order to avoid federal felony charges carrying up to 10 years in prison per gun.

The exact number of braces already in circulation is unclear, but the rule change would likely impact millions of gun owners. The ATF estimates three to seven million of the devices out there. The Congressional Research Service puts the number much higher: between 10 and 40 million.

Public comments on the rule ranged from detailed critiques of the specifics of the proposal to impassioned pleas not to effectively outlaw guns owned by millions of Americans to anger at the ATF for allegedly overstepping their bounds. Some, such as Nathan Barnes, delved into the point system the ATF created to judge whether a gun with a brace needs to be registered. He said the system is “broken” because it is “nearly impossible” for a braced gun not to require registration. James MacKenzie, another commenter, called the system too subjective.

“The ATF’s attempt to provide clarity around what does and does not constitute a pistol brace is vague,” he said. “Using words like ‘intent’ (which is near impossible to prove in a court of law) in the points scoring system essentially renders it unenforceable.”

Others accused the agency of trying to legislate instead of interpreting existing law. Peter Fittante said the ATF is “trying to make laws by rule making” and bypassing Congress. An anonymous commenter took it a step further.

“The change of this law, which has precedent established, without legislation or judicial oversight is not only unconstitutional, but abjectly immoral,” the person said.

A number of commenters told the ATF to simply leave them and other brace owners alone. They accused the agency of focusing its efforts on the wrong people. One anonymous commenter told the agency to “Worry about the criminals” instead of “trying to lock away people who mind their own business.” Laurence Prentice said the proposal will only harm those who follow the law.

“Once again, [the ATF is] attempting to create work for itself by placing a terrible burden on law abiding citizens through a modification of rules to millions of legally owned firearms,” Prentice said. “The ATF would be better suited to pursuing actual criminal activity, instead of stepping outside of their legal authority and creating new criminals out of thin air because a brace now bends the wrong way or what someone says are ‘fins’ someone else says are not.”

Some were more succinct with their criticism. “Unconstitutional,” one anonymous commenter said. “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED,” another said.

Disabled gun owners also argued the braces, which were designed to help the disabled shoot certain guns more easily, were vital to them.

“The newly proposed arbitrary and confusing rules on braces directly affects me and tens of thousands of other disabled Americans,” James Miller said. “Because of a combination of spinal stenosis and lupus, I have trouble holding a full sized rifle. Using an arm brace on what is termed a pistol but is the exact same firearm as one with a full sized stock makes it possible for me to continue to exercise my Constitutionally protected right to hunt and compete in shooting sports.”

“As a 100% service connected disabled veteran AR pistols with stabilizing braces gave me back the ability to recreational shoot and hunt with a handgun that I reckoned I had lost forever,” Paul Raczkowski said. “As a man of limited income living on disability, this ATF proposal discriminates against the millions of owners who obtained these weapons legally over the many years they have been available for purchase.”

Miller asked the ATF to drop the proposal.

“Please reconsider implementing these proposed rules,” he said. “Overnight, many many disabled Americans will be denied the use of anfiveassistive device by either confiscation of their firearms or else must pay a tax on their legally purchased and owned firearms.”

Public comment on the proposed rule change will remain open until Sep. 8, 2021.

Join For Sober Serious Firearms Reporting & Analysis

Free Weekly Newsletter

Get the most important gun news

Reloaders
$10/Month
  • Weekly News & Analysis Newsletters
  • Access to Exclusive Posts
  • Early Access to the Podcast
  • Commenting Privileges
  • Exclusive Question & Answer Sessions
Buy Now
Lifetime
$1000
  • Access to Exclusive Shooting Events
  • Weekly News & Analysis Newsletters
  • Access to Exclusive Posts
  • Early Access to the Podcast
  • Commenting Privileges
  • Exclusive Question & Answer Sessions
Buy Now
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Share

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Comments From Reload Members

Subscribe
Notify of
4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kenneth van Wyk
3 months ago

IMHO, it’s a classic example of government overreach. That which couldn’t be accomplished through legislation is being attempted through executive branch edict. We all should provide staunch responses to this. (Yes, I did.)

That said, I wonder if the current Executive and ATF leadership will even care about our feedback. Will we be heard or simply ignored and pushed aside? It is beyond maddening.

Cody Claxton
3 months ago

My comments submitted to the ATF:

I strongly oppose any new restrictions on the use of stabilizing braces for the following reasons: 
1) There are an estimated 10 Million of these braces owned by US Citizens who purchased them in good faith and are law-abiding gun owners. 
2) There is no evidence that these braces are contributing to a serious rise in criminal uses
3) Millions of US Citizens may not be aware of a rule change that would lead to a felony charge of possession of a NFA weapon without a tax stamp. This is manifestly unjust to the US citizens who bought these devices in good faith. 
4) When Americans have their property seized, or could be charged with felonies for simple possession, this must be done through Federal legislation, not the fiat of a Federal agency.
5) The proposed regulations themselves are arbitrary, subjective, and unenforceable. 
6) The right to self-defense is a biological, natural, human right and a civil right that allows each citizen to defend their life and the lives of their loved ones. No regulation should restrict or limit how citizens choose to bear arms for their defense. 
7) Ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 (with respect to federal laws) and Article 1, Section 10 (with respect to state laws). Should the regulation apply to existing brace owners, it would violate the US Constitution.
8) The 2nd Amdnement of the Constitution prevents the US or State Gov’t from infringing on our right to BEAR ARMS, and clearly a brace is intended for bearing of arms. 
9) You and I both know that this regulation is being proposed for purely political purposes by the Biden administration so they can say they did something about gun violence. 
10) Violent acts are committed by bad people, and pistol braces do not turn people into criminals. 

This proposed legislation is manifestly unjust and unconstitutional, and must be withdrawn. 

Cody CLaxton
Veteran, US Citizen

Al Canino
Al Canino
3 months ago

1st things first,
“Shall not be Infringed”, so the left always wanted to trash the Constitution, so that makes them the Enemy of the country-Domestically.
So they as a whole need to be put on their own terrorists List.
Biden, who’s a JOKE OF THE WORLD, and an Embarrassment to our country, was always against the 2nd Ammendment since the beginning of his lying Career, so why is anyone surprised.
These proposals are nothing more than a stepping stone to Annihilating the 2nd Ammendment and the US Constitution as welnownit to be.
place all conservative voters on a terrorist list and deny us our rights-Hitler done, so did Stalin, oh and Mao Zedong, thats the way this country is going, why because the Left’s best supporters are the Uneducated who don’t know any better.

Mark Avery
3 months ago

Although I heartily agree with these comments and the majority of those opposing this rules “interpretation” by the ATF, I doubt any of it will have the desired effect. The main problem is with the original legislation. The ATF is unlikely to be dissuaded by the fact that thousands of commenters and millions of owners don’t like it. They will argue, probably successfully since they only have to convince themselves and the Biden administration, that the law gives them the authority to regulate what is or is not going to be considered under the SBR control provisions.

The only way a comment is likely to have any impact is if it successfully challenges the ATF premises and shows how this regulation goes beyond the authority given in law. I’m still searching for how that is true. Stating that this will make accidental felons of millions of law-abiding gun owners is true, but that’s what they want because they wholeheartedly believe the whole AR-15 pistol and stabilizing brace was simply a way to get around the rules on registering SBRs. The arguments regarding enabling those with disabling injuries to effectively use an AR-style weapon won’t be persuasive, in my opinion, even though they are absolute accurate.

Menu

Get your copy of our FREE weekly newsletter!