January 13, 2023
After months of delays and uncertainty, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has finally announced its ruling on pistol stabilizing braces. On a Friday the 13th no less and just days before the 2023 SHOT Show, the ATF’s Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached “Stabilizing Braces” is nearly 300 pages of legal jargon and new rules that basically say AR pistols with stabilizing braces are now short-barreled rifles (SBRs). We’ve only just started reviewing the document, so expected a full, detailed report in the near future, but here are some quick hits from what’s been deciphered so far.
Firstly, the new ruling doesn’t go into effect until it’s been published in the Federal Register. At that point, you will have 120 days to register your now new SBR, but the $200 tax stamp fee is supposed to be waived in this window. The new ruling primarily affects AR and AK style guns, but it also affects guns like the CZ Scorpion EVO pistol, SIG Sauer MCX Rattler, various handguns with attached braces, and a lot more. Any gun with a stabilizing brace that does not fit within the ATF’s new criteria (which is most of them), will have to be removed from the firearm, or a 16-inch barrel will have to be installed.
If you were hoping for clear guidelines, prepare to be disappointed. One particular paragraph is especially challenging to decipher, and it perfectly encompasses the contradictory nature of the entire ruling. It reads, “This rule does not affect “stabilizing braces” that are objectively designed and intended as a “stabilizing brace” for use by individuals with disabilities, and not for shouldering the weapon as a rifle. Such stabilizing braces are designed to conform to the arm and not as a buttstock. However, if the firearm with the “stabilizing brace” is a short-barreled rifle, it needs to be registered within 120-days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.”
If you’re thinking “aren’t all stabilizing braces objectively designed and intended as a stabilizing brace,” you’re not alone in your confusion. Rest assured, it will probably take months to completely translate the nearly 300-page document into English. As an interesting aside, the Firearms News staff caught a surprise on page 182 when our own James Tarr makes an appearance in reference to Issue #18 of September 2018 while using a POF Revolution AR Pistol.
So, with the waive of a pen, the ATF has declared millions of law-abiding citizens in violation of federal law. There was no elected representation, and it’s hard not to take the timing as a message to the firearms industry the weekend before SHOT Show. While the new ruling is a blow to lawful gun owners across the country, there can be no doubt that the ATF can expect to spend a lot of time in court in the upcoming months. The Firearms News team will continue to review the new brace ruling, so be sure to keep an eye out for more details in the coming weeks.
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