Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Brace Yourself: ATF Reconsiders Obama-Era Policy on Stabilizing Braces

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Brace Yourself: ATF Reconsiders Obama-Era Policy on Stabilizing Braces

News broke this week that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has reconsidered and “clarified” its Jan. 6, 2015 Open Letter on the use of stabilizing braces as shoulder stocks.

As we explained at the time, the ATF took the position in that letter that merely affixing the stabilizing brace to a pistol did not constitute the “making” of an NFA firearm. Firing the braced pistol from the shoulder, however, was held to constitute a “redesign” of the firearm that brought it under the jurisdiction of the National Firearms Act (NFA), with all the additional regulations that classification entails.

This directly contradicted earlier advice the ATF had provided, in which the agency stated, “firing a pistol from the shoulder would not cause the pistol to be reclassified as an SBR.” Nor, advised the ATF in the earlier guidance, would using a stability brace improperly as a shoulder stock “change the classification of the weapon per federal law.”

ATF’s latest guidance on the matter was provided in response to a request by stabilizing brace manufacturer SB Tactical to reconsider the position taken in the Jan. 6, 2015 Open Letter. It was not issued as an open letter, rather as a direct response to SB Tactical’s outside counsel from ATF’s Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services, Marvin G. Richardson.

The letter – dated March 21, 2017 – appears aimed at reconciling ATF’s past positions. It notes that the NFA defines a regulated firearm to include “a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.” The law further defines a “rifle” as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder … .” In general, the letter indicates, “a pistol with a barrel less than 16 in length and an attached shoulder stock is an NFA ‘firearm.’”

The new letter maintains the position that “the use of stabilizing braces, as designed, would not create a short-barreled rifle when attached to a firearm.”

But it then goes on to clarify that “an NFA firearm has not necessarily been made … even if the attached firearm happens to be fired from the shoulder.”

Rather, the ATF will employ “both objective and subjective analyses” to determine the legal significance of the attachment of a brace to a pistol and its subsequent use as a shoulder stock.

In particular:

If … the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the devise for use as a shoulder stock— for example, configuring the brace so as to permanently affix it to the end of a buffer tube, (thereby creating a length that has no other purpose than to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearm from the shoulder using the accessory as a shoulder stock, that person has objectively ‘redesigned’ the firearm for purposes of the NFA.

Yet the letter goes on to state:

To the extent the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold that incidental, sporadic, or situational ‘use’ of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute ‘redesign,’ such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced.

The practical upshot of ATF’s clarification obviously leaves some room for interpretation.

What seems clear, however, is that attaching a stabilizing brace to a pistol expressly to create an SBR to fire from the shoulder – particularly when it involves alterations or processes that would undermine the use of the brace for its intended purpose of facilitating one-handed pistol fire – creates an NFA firearm.

On the other hand, ATF no longer takes the clearly untenable position that any shouldering of a braced pistol automatically constitutes the regulated “making” of an NFA firearm.

This is good news for manufacturers and the gun-buying public alike and is a hopeful sign that commonsense and reason – rather than Obama-era antigun politics– will again be the watchwords for ATF’s enforcement of federal firearms laws.

TRENDING NOW
California: Governor Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills into Law

Friday, October 11, 2019

California: Governor Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills into Law

Earlier today, Governor Newsom signed the seven anti-gun bills listed below into law.  

Dick’s Spends Big on Gun-Chopping, Virtue-Signaling Bonanza (But It Will Still Sell You a Firearm)

News  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Dick’s Spends Big on Gun-Chopping, Virtue-Signaling Bonanza (But It Will Still Sell You a Firearm)

Ed Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, wants you to know he’s committed to keeping AR-15s “off the street.” But he’s also committed (for the time being) to selling other types of firearms.

Number of Concealed Carry Permit Holders Increased Again

News  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Number of Concealed Carry Permit Holders Increased Again

Last week, economist John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center released “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2019,” his annual report on the number of concealed carry permit holders in the U.S.

California: Anti-Gun and Anti-Hunting Bill Signed into Law

Monday, October 14, 2019

California: Anti-Gun and Anti-Hunting Bill Signed into Law

Prior to the October 13 deadline, Governor Newsom signed the final anti-gun and anti-hunting bills, AB 1254 and SB 172 into law.  

Member Spotlight: Meet the Police Officer Who Told Congress She ‘Would Not Comply' with a Gun Ban

News  

Friday, October 4, 2019

Member Spotlight: Meet the Police Officer Who Told Congress She ‘Would Not Comply' with a Gun Ban

Last week, a retired Tulsa, Oklahoma law enforcement officer testified in a Congressional hearing that she “would not comply” if Congress passes a ban on firearms. Her bold assertion earned her national media attention and ...

Virginia’s Anti-gun Politicians Put Politics Before Fighting Gun Crime

News  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Virginia’s Anti-gun Politicians Put Politics Before Fighting Gun Crime

Virginia’s anti-gun politicians are serious about attacking law-abiding gun owners, but are indifferent about actual gun crime. As highlighted in a recent report in the Washington Free Beacon by Stephen Gutowski, the Virginia Department of Justice Services ...

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

News  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Virginia Police Chief Advocates Ban on All Guns at U.S. House “Assault Weapons” Hearing

On Sept. 25, the Democrat-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a 3 ½ hour “hearing” entitled “Protecting America From Assault Weapons.” That framing of the issue underscored the erroneous notion that Americans need protection from ...

Grassroots Spotlight: NRA-ILA Fighting the Bloomberg Money In Virginia 2019 Elections

News  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Grassroots Spotlight: NRA-ILA Fighting the Bloomberg Money In Virginia 2019 Elections

The Nov. 5th election may be the most consequential ever for our Second Amendment rights in the Commonwealth. That’s because every seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate is up for grabs and gun control ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

NRA Supports Supreme Court Petition Against Massachusetts Semi-Auto Ban

News  

Friday, September 27, 2019

NRA Supports Supreme Court Petition Against Massachusetts Semi-Auto Ban

On Monday, the plaintiffs in the NRA-supported case of Worman v. Healey filed their petition for writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court of the United States. This case challenges Massachusetts’s unconstitutional ban on commonly-owned, semi-automatic firearms as a violation of ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.