Millions of Americans at Risk of Becoming Felons Under Proposed Rule?

Millions of Americans at Risk of Becoming Felons Under Proposed Rule?

( – One of the biggest problems many gun owners have with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) is the agency’s propensity to pass vague rules that they believe exceed its authority. Further, there is a concern the federal government could use these rules, which frequently force gun owners to register things, to create a dangerous federal database for firearms.

Another new rule by the agency is unsurprisingly raising concerns. This time advocates also worry that millions of gun owners could inadvertently become felons.

ATF Rule

On January 13, 2023, the ATF announced Attorney General Merrick Garland signed the final version of its rule, Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces’ (2021R-08F). The rule reclassifies firearms with pistol braces as short-barrel rifles (SBR), which are regulated differently under the National Firearms Act (NFA).

Designers developed stabilizing braces (also known as pistol braces) to help people with disabilities, like veterans with limb damage, to handle a firearm more easily. The brace rests on the forearm and allows them to shoot more accurately. Currently, there are up to 40 million braces in circulation.

The ATF has long believed that attaching a brace to a firearm regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), like an AR pistol or handgun, turns it into an SBR regulated under the NFA. However, in 2012, the ATF changed its rule and determined attaching the brace to an AR-type pistol would not change how the agency classified the gun. That led to an explosion in the firearm industry, with many manufacturers creating different braces.

A couple of years later, the ATF again indicated there could be a shift. Officials within the agency raised concerns that owners could use the braces as shoulder stocks. The bureau charged an American with violating the law in 2018 for attaching a brace to an AR-style pistol and adding a check rest to it, creating a weapon users would fire from the shoulder. Fast forward five years, and the federal agency has decided that, yes, pistols with the brace are SBRs.

Millions of Felons?

Millions of people could potentially become felons if law enforcement prosecutes those who do not comply. Anyone who fails to re-classify their weapon could face 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Now that Garland has signed off on the rule change, it will become final when regulators publish it in the Federal Register. At that point, gun owners will have 120 days to bring their weapons into compliance. The ATF announced gun owners might do that in a few ways:

  • Register the weapon as an SBR, which means paying the $200 tax stamp
  • Remove the short barrel and attach a rifle barrel that is 16 inches or longer
  • Destroy the stabilizing brace or alter it so that it cannot reattach to the pistol
  • Turn the firearm into a local ATF office

Twenty-one states currently outlaw SBRs. In those cases, the owner will have no choice but to turn in their weapons, remove the brace, or destroy the gun.

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