The current political administration has the Pistol Stabilizing Brace (PSB) locked in its sights. A new notice of proposed BATF rulemaking that dropped on June 7, 2021, would fundamentally transform gun ownership in America. In its most draconian form this single initiative would administratively transform millions of America’s current law-abiding gun owners into non-violent felons. As always, the devil is in the details.
Pistol Stabilizing Brace Background
In 2012 USMC/Army veteran Alex Bosco was at his local shooting range enjoying the company of a disabled wounded warrior. Alex’s buddy was struggling to manage his weapon given the nature of his injuries. Alex had an epiphany and crafted the world’s first Pistol Stabilizing Brace in his garage to help this injured stud run his gun safely one-handed.
Alex submitted his PSB to the BATF for consideration. They determined that the addition of such a contrivance to a pistol did not in fact transform the gun into a short-barreled rifle. Subsequent rulings were a bit bipolar regarding whether or not you could legally run a brace-equipped handgun from the shoulder. However, when the dust settled BATF said that was OK so long as you didn’t make a habit of it. The BATF claims there are 3 million of these delightful contrivances in circulation. The Giffords Center claims 40 million. Most reliable gun-friendly sources put the actual number between 4 and 7 million.
Here’s some perspective. Assume each one of those 4 million PSB-equipped handguns was an AR-15 pistol that was 25 inches long. If you placed all of those guns butt to muzzle they would stretch from the surface of the earth to the International Space Station and back 3.5 times. Of those millions of PSB-equipped handguns exactly two of them have been used in mass shootings.
The politicians proposing this stuff don’t have a clue how our quirky little world works. They utterly fail to appreciate how easy it is to swap out a PSB for a proper AR-15 buttstock. They also falsely believe that outlawing PSBs would somehow dissuade lunatic mass shooters. Criminals by definition ignore laws. The only folks this new ruling will touch is you and me. Therein lies the problem.
This breathtakingly tedious ruling is 71 pages long. I read the whole thing. Never let it be said that we gunwriters do not suffer for our art.
This rule’s beating heart is Worksheet 4999 “Factoring Criteria for Rifled Barrel Weapons with Accessories.” This two-page document lists a whole bunch of anatomical features that a short-barreled weapon might possess and assigns arbitrary point values to them. Stuff like hand stops, optics, and flip-up sights are bad. Those minimalist split-tail braces or a brace without an arm strap are extra bad.
To be considered, the gun must be between 12 and 26 inches long and weigh at least four pounds. An AR pistol with a standard buffer tube and seven-inch barrel is 25 inches long. Anything longer automatically demands registration.
All it takes is four points to classify a gun as a Short-Barreled Rifle that must be registered under the National Firearms Act. A telescoping brace or hand stop counts two points. A conventional riflescope or 13.5-inch length of pull counts four. Most current PSB-equipped firearms will qualify as SBRs under these new criteria.
This proposed rule offers several options for current PSB owners, all of which are bad. You can voluntarily destroy the brace that you legally bought with your hard-earned money. Or you can replace the short barrel with the long sort and, I guess, throw the short barrel away. Finally, you can surrender the weapon to BATF for destruction without compensation as well. Not sure how Washington, Jefferson, and the rest of the founding fathers would feel about that.
You can also pay the $200 tax, file a BATF Form 1, and register the gun as an SBR. The current registry contains less than two million weapons. The last BATF transfer I did took nine months. What effect do you think adding another four million NFA items to the registry might have? I’m 55 years old. No kidding, I could die of old age before my next transfer is approved.
We’ve Been Down This Road Before
In 2018 the BATF administratively reclassified bump stocks as machine guns. The new ruling took effect March 26, 2019. Current owners were given the option of either turning these devices in to BATF or destroying them. Failure to do so was punishable by 10 years imprisonment and a quarter million-dollar fine. Of the half million or so bump stocks then in circulation, some 582 were voluntarily abandoned to the BATF.
On March 25, 2021, the US Sixth Court of Appeals rightfully overturned the bump stock ban. However, for those two years nearly half a million otherwise law-abiding gun owners were, by definition, felons in possession of an illegal NFA item. We’re now looking at something an order of magnitude worse.
As Americans we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves just what it means to be a felon. If it’s really not that big a deal then screw it, let’s just ignore all federal laws. If that’s indeed the case I can’t wait to fill out next year’s taxes. However, if it really is still a big deal then we need to stop administratively turning so many peaceful Americans into felons.
Here’s why it matters. I predict very few gun owners will actually comply with this. Once we create 4 million new felons with the stroke of a pen, what happens when the hardworking men and women of the BATF are called upon to enforce these redefined laws?
In 1992 federal agents killed Randy Weaver’s wife and 14-year-old son over the length of a shotgun barrel. Vicki Weaver was shot in the face while she held her 10-month-old daughter. A year later eighty-two Branch Davidians and four federal agents died when the BATF tried to enforce the same law that this new ruling seeks to expand.
You heard it here first. If we persist down this road there will eventually result some horrible bloodbath. Once the smoke clears we will all feel terrible about it, but it will have been entirely preventable. Contrary to the accepted narrative, PSBs are not some massive threat to public safety. Misguided politicians are threatening public safety just fine all by themselves.
Make a difference. Comment on this bogus pistol stabilizing brace proposed ruling HERE.
What ATF’s Proposed Rule Change Means for You – Personal Defense World is written by Will Dabbs MD for www.personaldefenseworld.com