The ATF released their new rules for pistols with braces. The new regulations take a legal product–an AR-15 pistol or other pistol with an arm brace–and designate it a short-barreled rifle (SBR), which makes it illegal unless you fill out the correct paperwork and register it with the ATF. Normally, doing so will cost $200. For the next 120 days, they will waive the fee.
If you’ve read my prior posts on the matter, you know I have guns outfitted with pistol braces. So, what am I going to do?
According to the ATF, my options are one of the following:
- Remove the short barrel and replace it with one that is 16 inches or longer.
- Remove the pistol brace and destroy it or render it unusable.
- Fill out the online paperwork and submit it to the ATF to register my pistols as SBRs.
- Take my guns to the ATF and turn them in.
- Destroy my guns.
Well, I’m sure as hell not going to do either of the last two options. So, what am I going to do? Nothing.
Fines and Jail Time
After this law goes into effect in mid-May, you can be fined $250,000 and sent to jail for ten years for possessing what was formerly a legal gun. So why am I doing nothing? Because of the timing. I reserve the right to take action in the future.
I believe this law is unconstitutional and illegal on multiple counts and in due time, the Supreme Court will declare that to be the case. In the meantime, I expect there will be injunctions that put the law on hold and will prevent its enforcement. I expect this process will take at least 18 months to play out, perhaps longer. As a result, I don’t think smart gun owners will be required to do anything in the immediate future, and given the strong likelihood that they will throw the law out, I think no action on my part will ever be required.
Keep in mind that this is my opinion and not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. If you own a pistol with a pistol brace, seek more information and make up your own mind.
Registration Leads to Confiscation
There is a school of thought that the ATF is doing this to get gun owners to register their weapons with the ATF, thereby giving the ATF a list of gun owners. You can understand their reasoning. An AR or AK pistol with an arm brace, for instance, is not a gun casual gun owner buys. It’s not your average “first gun.” In fact, it’s probably not even your first AR. My bet is that 95 percent of the people who own guns with pistol braces own at least three other guns. These are the very people the ATF wants to have on their list, so they know where to show up if they ever get permission to disarm the populace through confiscation.
Remember, registration leads to confiscation. This is a historical fact demonstrated many times in multiple countries.
I’m not worried about being added to the ATF’s list because I am already on it. I own a suppressor and have the tax stamp for it. That means I registered it with the ATF. So they already have my name, address, fingerprints, suppressor info including serial number, etc.
I have also been buying firearms for more than 30 years. I know multiple FFL holders I’ve dealt with have gone out of business. When they do so, they turn their records over to the ATF. So the ATF has a partial list of guns I have purchased. Finally, I’ve had a gun stolen, which I reported to law enforcement. While it was recovered, and eventually returned to me, I expect the ATF was notified somewhere along the way. So any desire to remain invisible or under the radar is long gone in my case.
Can they Track you Down?
On the other hand, none of the pistols I own were purchased as pistols. All of them were receivers and built into pistols or were acquired in private sales. So if the ATF has access to the forms on which I bought those AR receivers, they will only know that I purchase receivers, not pistols. And while I have used credit cards to buy a pistol buffer tubes in the past, I have never used one to buy a pistol brace. So does the ATF have information that I own pistol braces? Unlikely. Am I going to rely on that? No.
If you own one or more of what may soon be illegal pistols with a brace, is it possible data regarding your purchase is in the hands of the ATF? Is there data in your credit card history, which might be sold to the government by private companies, that would lead someone to believe you purchased pistol braces? For example, buying something from SB Tactical, a leader in pistol braces, might contribute to probable cause.
Second, I live in a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary state, which means the ATF cannot require local law enforcement to enforce federal gun laws. I also doubt my local sheriff is going to be arresting anyone for having a pistol brace, although the DA might use that as a threat if they arrest someone for using a weapon so equipped during the commission of a crime. They certainly won’t be going door-to-door. Our sheriff has said their job is dangerous enough without risking the lives of his deputies by trying to enforcing unconstitutional gun laws.
In the End
If we reach a point when legal challenges fail and it becomes obvious owning these devices will be illegal within of weeks, I will comply. Why? Because I don’t think owning a pistol brace is important enough to risk going to jail for ten years and losing all my other rights, including the right to own my other weapons. You may consider this a cop out; I consider it being realistic. I don’t have the resources to fight the government. I’d like to thumb my nose at an unconstitutional “law” that was never passed by congress, but I’ll let someone with less to lose be the test case.
What will I do? I expect I will take advantage of the $200 fee waiver and register all but one of my AR pistols as SBRs. After all, I built one of them for that specific purpose–so I could convert it to an SBR without paying the $200 fee.
I will get rid of the pistol brace on at least one because I want to have a pistol that has the power of a rifle cartridge and is legal to carry in states that accept my concealed carry permit. To me, the appeal of an AR pistol is I can carry it concealed in my vehicle when I cross state lines. As long as that other state has CCW reciprocity, I can carry an AR pistol in 5.56 or .300 blackout, both of which are more powerful than a 9mm.
The big disadvantage of traveling interstate with rifles is that they have to be locked in a case in an inaccessible part of your vehicle. Worse, if you want to leave the state with your SBR, you must first inform the ATF and get their permission, a process that can take four weeks or more. So I’ll keep one pistol as a pistol, just in case, for self-defense while traveling. It won’t have a brace, but it will still be more powerful than my Glock.
Corrections: On Feb. 1 this article was updated to correct the amount of a potential ATF fine.
Update: Please read this article for our latest update on this ATF rule.