My colleague Tom Knighton has already outlined some of the problems with the ATF’s decision to classify the Honey Badger AR-15 pistol from gunmaker Q, LLC, as a “short-barreled rifle” subject to the National Firearms Act, and on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we delve deeper into the issue with Alex Bosco, the founder and CEO of SB Tactical.
Bosco’s been dealing with the ATF over their vague and arbitrary determinations regarding pistol braces since 2015, when the ATF issued a ruling declaring that owners of pistols equipped with forearm braces could illegally turn their firearms into short-barreled rifles by shouldering the brace.
In 2017, the ATF reversed course and issued an advisory letter stating that “attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not “make” a short-barreled rifle” by itself, but if the owner of the handgun “takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock,” then that gun owner has “objectively ‘redesigned’ the firearm for purposes of the National Firearms Act.”
Bosco says that new standard wasn’t perfect, but at least it was workable. Over the next few years he met multiple times with the agency in an attempt to get the agency to publicly release standards that gunmakers could follow to ensure that they stay within the law, to no avail.
Now, just weeks before the election, the ATF has sent a letter to Q, LLC declaring that its Honey Badger pistol, which comes equipped with an SB Tactical forearm brace, is a short-barreled rifle because its “objective design features.. configured with the subject stabilizing brace, indicate the firearm is designed an intended to be fired from the shoulder.” Because the Honey Badger has a rifled barrel of less than 16 inches, the ATF concluded that the Honey Badger is actually a short-barreled rifle subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act.
In other words, while the regulations regarding pistol braces haven’t change, the ATF’s interpretation of those regulations has taken a sudden reversal, which has not only halted sales of the AR-15 pistol by Q, LLC, but has put the legal status of millions of these firearms that are already in the hands of private owners into question. As Stephen Gutowski of the Washington Free Beacon reported on Friday:
The decision appears to conflict with several similar determinations made by the ATF dating back to 2012, when the agency told Sig Sauer that the braces, designed to strap to a shooter’s forearm instead of being pressed against their shoulder, could be legally combined with guns that have barrels shorter than the 16-inch federal limit for rifles. The new letter calls into question the basic legality of the devices and leaves gun owners in flux just three weeks before the presidential election.
Carolyn Gwathmey, the public affairs officer for the ATF, said the letter only directly applies to the New Hampshire gun company’s pistol, but neither she nor the letter offered an explanation for why that model differs from other weapons equipped with the braces. She said the agency would not offer a standard of review of the devices as a whole, but only on a case-by-case basis.
As Bosco tells me on today’s Cam & Co, the fact that the agency refuses to offer a standard of review for manufacturers to follow means that they can basically make up their determinations as they go along.
Bosco also believes that the move against the Honey Badger is an attempt by ATF higher ups to cause problems for the Trump administration in the final weeks of the presidential election. Gun owners make up an important part of Trump’s base of support and the adverse and arbitrary ruling by the agency could cause some gun owners to stay at home because they view the cease-and-desist letter as coming from the administration itself, though Bosco says he believes the ATF’s recent ruling was made by career bureaucrats within the agency who are opposed to Trump’s re-election.
The NRA’s Jason Ouimet has been quick to respond to the new ruling, according to Bosco, and the organization is alerting members to contact the Department of Justice and demand that they reverse the ATF’s ruling. Additionally, Bosco says a new organization called the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition that he’s a part of has set up an online portal where gun owners can contact the DOJ and their representatives in Congress to urge them to rescind the ATF’s decision and reign in the abuses by the ATF.
Be sure to check out the entire interview with SB Tactical’s Alex Bosco above, and if you’re a gun owner or Second Amendment supporter, make sure that you add your voice to the growing number of people who are sounding off and demanding that the DOJ reverse course on the ATF’s designation of the Honey Badger pistol as an NFA item.