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USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been making rumblings about pistol braces for some time, and now they’re going after 80% build kits.
Those of us who have been paying attention have seen this coming for quite a while, but it has mostly been muted during the Trump administration. The BATFE started getting more aggressive and blatant in their assaults on our rights just before the November elections. It appears that the BATFE leadership was pretty confident of a Biden victory and couldn’t wait to start working toward Biden’s stated goals of increased gun control.
It’s also possible that the honchos at BATFE figured that upsetting GunVoters right before the election might hurt Trump at the polls. We’ll never know for sure.
Whatever BATFE’s motives for their current assaults on gun owners, President Trump should take immediate action to rein in the agency and shut down their attacks on our rights.
While any action taken by President Trump would likely be overturned in short order, if the apparent election results are allowed to stand and Joe Biden is inaugurated as the new President, it is still very worthwhile for President Trump to take decisive action to stop the nonsense going on during his watch. Not only would such action provide gun owners with some temporary relief and a little more time to plan and organize for the fight, but it would help garner much-needed support for President Trump and Republicans in general. That support could be critical at this moment in political history. Shooting down unconstitutional actions by his BATFE, also lays the whole issue squarely at Joe Biden’s and the Democrats’ feet, if he becomes President, removing the option of claiming that he’s just going along with policies initiated under the Trump administration.
The BATFE has a long history of abuse, distortion, ineptitude, and corruption, along with a historical propensity for keeping their policies and regulations ambiguous, so they can maintain leeway to shift interpretations and engage in selective prosecution of gun owners.
Just last week, in the wake of a series of threats and accusations lodged against manufacturers, sellers, and owners of pistol stabilizing braces and guns equipped with the devices, the BATFE published a Notice in the Federal Register, describing the “Objective Criteria” the agency uses to determine the legality of pistols equipped with these additional support devices. The Notice is laying the groundwork for the BATFE to declare most arm-brace-equipped pistols to be Short-Barreled Rifles, which are required to be registered under the National Firearms Act. They’ve even gone so far as to offer to waive the $200 registration tax for current owners of arm-brace-equipped pistols, who would like to register them as Short-Barreled Rifles.
A pistol brace is nothing more than a short extension attached to the back of a handgun, which can be strapped to, or braced against, the shooter’s forearm, to help support and stabilize the firearm while shooting. Some people have been known to use these braces like shoulder stocks, and BATFE is claiming that many of these devices are actually designed and intended to be used in this manner, which would make the guns they are attached to “Short-Barreled Rifles” under the definitions of the National Firearms Act of 1934.
The Notice published last week by the BATFE spells out the “objective criteria” used by the agency in determining whether a particular pistol and brace configuration should be regulated under the NFA, or not, but the “objective criteria” they offer, leaves so much room for interpretation, that it can mean anything they choose.
Criteria identified in BATFE’s Notice includes such things as “size,” “length,” “weight,” and “balance,” along with “caliber,” “optics,” “magazine capacity,” “length of pull,” and other general concepts.
Absent is any sort of actual objective criteria. What size? What length? What weight? What caliber? How can magazine capacity be a factor when virtually all of these guns use detachable box magazines and can accept magazines that can hold as few as 3 or 5 rounds, up to magazines that can hold 100 rounds or more.
BATFE might as well have included “color” and “scent” in their “objective criteria,” because as long as no quantifiable parameter is identified, it is not “objective criteria,” but rather categories of consideration. And the categories of consideration laid out by the BATFE in their Notice, are so broad and undefined, that there’s no way for anyone to be able to predict what conclusion the agency might draw on any particular item they examine.
As usual, the real problem in all of this is Congress.
When they passed the National Firearms Act in 1934, (which they knew full well was unconstitutional when they structured it as a tax measure in an attempt to make an end-run around the Constitution), they provided some actual objective criteria for determining what should and should not be regulated under the NFA, such as defining a “Short-Barreled Rifle” as a rifle with a barrel of fewer than 16 inches.
Where they failed miserably, was in their definitions of what constituted a “Rifle,” “Shotgun,” and “Pistol or Revolver.” On the one hand, they attempted to keep the definitions simple and straightforward, but at the same time, they tried to make specific distinctions between these three broad classes of firearms. The result is that two functionally and dimensionally identical guns can be legally quite different, based solely on the stated intent of the manufacturer when they were made.
For instance Steve McQueen’s famous “Mare’s Leg” pistol, from the old TV series “Wanted Dead or Alive,” is legally considered a “Weapon made from a rifle,” and making one like it by cutting off the barrel and shoulder stock of a Winchester Model ‘92, a lever-action carbine (Heaven forbid), or a modern replica, would require filing paperwork requesting permission, paying a $200 tax, undergoing an extensive background check, and registering the gun with BATFE. Every time that gun was sold or transferred, another $200 tax would be assessed and the new owner would have to pass the extensive background check. McQueen was actually arrested once and the gun confiscated, during a promotional appearance. It cost the studio some $10,000.00 to get the gun back. But an identical replica of the “Mare’s Leg” can be purchased, possessed, and transferred just like any other non-NFA firearm, IF the manufacturer called it a “Pistol” when they made it.
Today’s modular firearms, where barrels, stocks, and receivers can be easily and quickly swapped around, have rendered the old definitions meaningless, but Congress has failed to address the problem, so gun owners are put at risk by arbitrary and capricious decisions from the BATFE.
As the Chief Executive, President Trump can instruct his employees to focus their attention on actual criminals who are acquiring and using firearms for violent criminal purposes, rather than focusing on regular shooters and collectors who are just pursuing a hobby and exercising constitutionally protected rights.
You have a role to play as well.
The BATFE has opened a comment period on their Notice in the Federal Register. You need to let them know that you strongly disapprove of their pursuit of restrictions on firearm attachments like stabilizing braces.
If you rant or use foul language, your comment will be ignored or deleted and could be used against the cause, so please be respectful and to the point.
Point out that they are focusing in the wrong direction, looking at responsible gun owners and collectors, rather than pursuing violent criminals.
Question the lack of actual objective criteria in their “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with “Stabilizing Braces,” and demand specific, objective criteria that any layman can easily understand and apply.
Call on the BATFE to lobby Congress for the removal of outdated categories and definitions of firearms in the NFA and the GCA, so BATFE can get away from the business of interpretation of laws, and back to the business of protecting the public from dangerous criminals.
I’ll be submitting a comment, and will publish it here and on our website at www.FirearmsCoalition.org, so you can take ideas from it if you wish.
To read the BATFE Notice and submit your own comment, click here.
I also urge you to send a copy of your comment, or a separate message, to President Trump and urge him to fire or demote those BATFE officials who are pushing more assaults on gun owners, importers, and manufacturers, rather than focusing on catching and prosecuting violent criminals.
You are the Gun Lobby. Don’t depend on others to do the work for you. Take action today!
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs, and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona, and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.