Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of people who love the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or simply ATF). In the world of federal enforcement agencies, they’ve never been high on the ‘warm and fuzzy’ scale. Then along comes their recent moves against companies who make 80% firearms and suppressor kits, and now pistol braces. Let’s not forget their previous administrative actions to ban bump stocks and you have an agency most would now put into the ‘hated’ category. For those of you who think it can’t get any worse, just ask any firearm owner in California how their own DOJ BOF (Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms) evolved. The same thing, using the same tactics, is now occurring at the ATF. A coincidence? Hardly…
We all know the incident that caused bump stocks to become illegal in this country. A horrible tragedy with no known motive or individual to take responsibility, so bump stocks were blamed and banned. Not an unprecedented move in the gun control world, but it highlighted the ability of the ATF to reverse previous determinations based on political pressure. What we are seeing now is the same thing.
The ATF recently served warrants, or raided, depending on how you look at it, an 80% firearms manufacturer. The target was a packaged kit of supplies to manufacture your own firearm, as well as the people who had purchased them. Note that all these individual parts are available from this and numerous other manufacturers and can be purchased separately or even purchased at the same time, but it was the “kit” that caused the ATF to act. The logic is the “kit” can be used to put together a firearm in minutes (which is absolutely not true unless you count your hours in minutes) and as such, should be considered a firearm. Somewhere in the noise it appears a “kit” had been purchased by a prohibited person to build a firearm, which would be illegal for them to possess.
Among the no surprise things going on here are that a prohibited person is going to acquire a firearm, something ILLEGAL for them to do, or that the ATF might consider a “kit” a firearm. As little as two years ago another manufacturer received a ruling from the ATF that while the 80% frame was not a firearm, “This classification does not apply if the polymer frame-blank is marketed, sold, or distributed as part of a kit.” We can debate the lack of logic behind this, but it is there in black and white. It seems the 80% industry isn’t very good about sharing knowledge.
Not only was the 80% firearm manufacturer subject to an ATF search and seizure, but also an 80% suppressor manufacturer, and apparently for similar reasons. It also appears the ATF is now visiting customers of these products demanding “voluntary” forfeiture to avoid them securing a search warrant to seize the property. That last part is a whole different argument for another time.
And now, we have the ATF putting out a notice and request for comment entitled “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with “Stabilizing Braces””. The link to the notice and where you can make a comment is listed below. It’s only five pages long and I highly recommend you read it for yourself.
In short, the document fails at the first word, objective. Instead, it is highly subjective and lacks the critical details that would allow a manufacturer or consumer to make an informed decision about the legality of a product they produce or possess. Instead, a firearm is “subject to the NFA (National Firearms Act), on a case-by-case basis.”
It highlights considerations like type and caliber, weight and length, length of pull, aim point and sights and scopes as items to be evaluated, but provides absolutely no details on what is and isn’t acceptable under the proposed rules. The very subjectivity of it could lead the same firearm owned by one person to be considered legal but subject to NFA rules if owned by another person.
If you’re wondering where this is heading, the document outlines the options you’ll have for a stabilizing brace firearm. They are “registering the firearm in compliance with the NFA” “permanently removing the stabilizing brace from the firearm and disposing of it, replacing the barrel of the firearm (16’’ or greater for a rifle, or 18’’ or greater for a shotgun), surrendering the firearm to ATF, or destroying the firearm.” Note the carrot for registering your firearm under the NFA is a waiver of the $200 / firearm fee.
So why are Californians having a case of déjà vu? Because the CA DOJ BOF has used very similar tactics in their war on so-called “assault weapons”. This includes the use of “emergency” regulations that dramatically reduce the amount of time comments are taken. In this case, instead of the usual, regulatory mandated 30 days, the ATF has limited the amount of time to just 17 days, over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, another one of CA DOJ BOF’s tactics.
Some are saying this is a blessing since it will allow people to register their firearms as a SBR (short barreled rifle) without having to pay the $200 tax stamp. This of course ignores the obvious issue of having to register in the first place, as well as having to register a pistol as a SBR. There are also a host of other restrictions that come with NFA firearms. And if you’re going to have to register your stabilizing brace firearm as an SBR, why not put on an actual firearm stock instead of something that doesn’t work well as a stock?
The CA DOJ BOF may provide us with some insight here. During the last round of “assault weapon” laws, Californians could register their so-called “bullet button assault weapons” but were not allowed to remove the bullet buttons to be like the other “registered assault weapons”. Registration also meant they could not sell or pass on their firearm to heirs.
Looking into the Odd Stuffing crystal ball, I’m seeing many changes coming to the NFA, including a separate category for stabilizing brace firearms that will preclude their ability to be altered, transferred or inherited in the future. I’m also seeing a lot of so-called “semi-automatic assault weapons” being added to the NFA as well. Although that’s not really a crystal ball thing since the probable incoming administration has vowed to place “assault weapons” under the jurisdiction of the NFA.
What we are seeing is the first steps towards making the ATF like the CA DOJ BOF. This strategy to get more and more firearms registered though through the NFA will only make their eventual outlaw, confiscation and destruction on a nationwide basis easier in the future. Can you guess where this idea came from?
This is just another step to administratively diminish the protections of the Second Amendment into nonexistence, just like they’ve already done in California.
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