The Reload Analysis Newsletter

Members’ Newsletter: The Coming Showdown Over Biden’s Pistol Brace Ban and the Bad Signs for ‘Assault Weapons’ Bans

This week set up several significant battles. The first, and the one unlikely to last very long, is the battle over gun-carry licenses in Philadelphia. The city is violating a state law restricting how long it can take to issue permits. And they’re doing it for the second time in a year. Philly caved the first time it was sued over the delays, and it’s hard to see them defeating this new suit.

Philly being Philly, it will probably find some other illegal roadblocks to throw in front of its residents who want to carry at some point after this fight is settled. And it’ll probably get roasted like a nice pork sandwich from Dinic’s all over again.

The other two fights are likely to be more protracted. The fight over stabilizing pistol braces has just begun, with the ATF announcing a proposal to ban the vast majority of them. The fight over “assault weapons,” on the other hand, may be moving into its end phase.

AR-15s on display at a gun store in Virginia
AR-15s on display at a gun store in Virginia / Stephen Gutowski

Bad Signs for ‘Assault Weapons’ Bans

Activists who want to ban “assault weapons,” including the popular AR-15, faced multiple setbacks this week. Legal and political events cast doubt on the future of those bans in the United States.

The most obvious development was a federal judge ruling California’s ban unconstitutional. The ruling was the first time a district court judge struck down a state-wide ban. The ruling has been stayed, so nothing changes for the average Californian just yet. The Ninth Circuit may well reverse the lower court’s decision (or they may not, as I discussed last week) but, if they do, the timing will be good for a newly invigorated Supreme Court to take up the case. That could spell the end for “assault weapon” bans across the country.

But a smaller development in Virginia may be just as valuable in judging the political standing of these gun bans. Delegate Mark Levine (D.) was the major driving force behind the push to pass new gun laws after Democrats captured total control of the state government. He sponsored two successful gun bills and managed to shepherd an assault weapons ban to passage in the House of Delegates before moderate Democrats defeated it in the state senate.

On Tuesday, after running on his gun record, he lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Worse, he lost reelection for his own seat. Levine is now completely out of state government just a year after leading the successful House effort to pass new gun laws.

His opponent doesn’t appear to be a gun-rights proponent, but she didn’t even mention the issue on her website, and her campaign focused on climate change and economic issues. That suggests pushing for a ban on AR-15s and other guns did little to help Levine and may have even hurt him in his deep-blue district.

This is likely why Levine didn’t even bother to introduce his failed assault weapons bill in 2021, and Virginia Democrats largely left guns alone during the election-year session. We can see the same effect at the national level too. Democrats have control over the House of Representatives but didn’t even put an “assault weapons” ban to a vote in 2020, haven’t done so to this point in 2021, and are exceedingly unlikely to do so before the 2022 midterms.

It’s actually quite odd that bans on AR-15s have consistently been at the center of the gun-control debate over the past 30 years, since only eight states have actually passed one, and they all passed their initial bans three decades ago.. Permitless gun carry has been passed in 19 states over the past decade. The same number have passed “red flag” laws.

Assault weapons bans have been politically stagnant since the 90s, but we still talk about them all the time. That may be coming to an end soon, though.

The Coming Showdown Over Biden’s Pistol Brace Ban

While the fight over “assault weapons” may be winding down, the fight over stabilizing pistol braces is just getting started. The ATF announced its proposal to ban and register most of the braces already on the market. They won’t allow grandfathering for the millions already owned by Americans, and they won’t waive the $200 tax stamp required for registration which means most owners probably won’t comply.

President Joe Biden requested this proposal after a gun with a pistol brace was used in the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in March. Congress hasn’t passed the gun-control laws, including an “assault weapons” ban, so Biden is bypassing them by using the rulemaking process to try and institute the ban. However, that means the proposal has to go through a public comment period.

That period opened on Thursday, and there are already over 10,000 comments on the rule. Gun-rights groups have begun a concerted effort to get as many people as possible to submit public comments, and the number will likely grow far bigger before the period ends.

The effort could be successful. Controversial rule changes affecting how the legality of guns, gun accessories, and ammo have gone both ways during the public comment period in recent years.

The Obama administration proposed a rule that would have banned the sale of “green tip” ammunition commonly used in AR-15s, but it pulled the rule after hundreds of thousands of negative comments poured in. The Trump administration proposed a similar rule on braces last fall but pulled it after an overwhelmingly negative response during the public comment period. However, the Trump administration successfully redefined bump stocks as machine guns and effectively banned their possession in 2018 despite overwhelmingly negative comments.

That foreshadows the next fight if the brace ban does make it through the comment period. Gun-rights activists immediately challenged the bump-stock ban and confiscation effort in court. In March 2021, the Sixth Circuit struck down the ban. A years-long court battle is certainly in the cards for Biden’s pistol-brace ban, even if it does survive the public comment period.

Stephen Gutowski shooting sporting clays / Eric Brown

Shooting With Some Co-Founders

Saturday morning, I took a couple of Reload Co-Founders out to shoot sporting clays at Bull Run Shooting Center. Forgive the pun, but we had a blast. It’s been a while since I’ve shot sporting clays, and this trip made me remember just how great it is and made me want to go back far more often.

There’s nothing like shooting reactive targets—steel is fantastic for that reason. But sporting clays add the additional excitement of a moving target. The combination is exhilarating.

Plus, sporting clay courses offer a ton of variety. Bull Run has 14 different stages. You can have clays come at you, fly away from you, fly across your view, and roll across the ground. Plus, you can combine multiple throwers to make things even more interesting.

It’s basically like golfing but with shotguns. Who wouldn’t like that?

We got some fantastic barbecue afterward. We stopped in at Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster BBQ in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. You may recognize the name from the show on Destination America. Mixon is the winningest man in barbecue, and this is his only restaurant. It’s downright delicious so, if you’re ever in Alexandria, make sure you check it out.

Get the BBQ-deviled eggs, cornbread muffins, mac and cheese, and honey money cluck pulled chicken. You won’t regret it!

I’ll leave it on that sweet and savory note.

Talk to you guys again next Sunday!

Thank you,
Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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