ATF Loses Round In Battle Over Pistol Braces

The latest attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to unilaterally enact a firearms ban without an act of Congress has failed. The National Rifle Association (NRA) had filed suit against a 2023 ATF redefinition of “short-barreled rifle” to include pistol brace devices.

No less than a Clinton-appointed federal judge, Sam Lindsey, blocked enforcement of the pistol brace ban.

A pistol brace is a device that can be fitted to a handgun to aid in accuracy when firing one-handed. The ATF argues that attaching one of these devices to a handgun transforms it into a rifle whose barrel is 16 inches or less.

Such firearms are heavily regulated per the terms of the Firearms Act of 1934, which made possession of certain guns subject to federal registration, background checks, fingerprinting, taxation and other onerous restrictions. These are called “NFA weapons” and include fully automatic guns, silencers as well as short-barreled shotguns and rifles.

The draconian ATF has taken a great deal of liberties over the years in using its administrative authority to legislate. They not only enforce bans enacted by Congress — such as the 1934 law — but they also routinely add new weapons to the list.

Indeed, the NRA contended in its federal lawsuit that the ATF “by a stroke of a pen redefines ‘pistols’ with stabilizing braces as short-barreled ‘rifles’ subject to the onerous licensing and taxation requirements of the National Firearms Act of 1934.”

In the big government tradition of “never letting a crisis go to waste,” most new firearms restrictions leverage specific tragic incidents as justification. The general public has only a rudimentary knowledge of guns. Emotions, not facts, drive their opinions — and the opportunistic ATF is free to enact more controls as a result.

The current pistol brace ban came following the 2021 Boulder, Colorado shooting in which the perpetrator used such a device. Following the 2017 Las Vegas shooting where a “bump stock” was used, a prohibition on these devices was enacted. Unfortunately, this was done under the Trump Administration. The original 1934 machine gun ban was motivated by graphic images of the gangland warfare of Al Capone.

Many of these restrictions rely on visual shock and awe. The guns and accessories in question “look scary,” so the devices are presumed to be somehow more powerful and dangerous. A pistol brace makes a garden-variety handgun look more menacing, so the ATF can more easily sell the ban to the unwashed masses.

The prohibited guns on California’s original “assault weapons” ban were selected simply by looking at catalogs for the ones that had the most frightening appearances.

Indeed, banning pistol braces under penalty of ten years in Federal prison saves no lives but does provide a healthy dose of liberal “symbolism over substance” — a Democrat deception tactic often pointed out by the late conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.