BREAKING: ATF Doc Suspends Proposed Pistol Brace Guidance

After receiving more than 50,000 comments in just a matter of days, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives appears to be putting its proposed guidance on pistol stabilizing braces on ice, at least for the time being. In a document posted to the ATF’s website on Wednesday afternoon, associate deputy director Marvin Richardson wrote:

Upon further consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, ATF is withdrawing, pending further Department of Justice review, the notice and request for comments entitled “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with ‘Stabilizing Braces’,” that was published on December 18, 2020. 85 FR 82516. As explained in the notice, the proposed guidance was not a regulation. The notice informed and invited comment from the industry and public on a proposed guidance prior to issuing a final guidance document. The withdrawal of the guidance does not change any law, regulation, or other legally binding requirement.

The withdrawal won’t be official until it appears in the Federal Register, which could take a couple of days thanks to the Christmas holidays, but at the moment it appears the proposed guidance has been paused. So where does that leave the issue of whether or not firearms equipped with pistol braces are going to be considered short barreled rifles that must be registered under the National Firearms Act? It’s unclear, honestly.

The problem is that the ATF has basically been using the “we know it when we see it” approach for years now, rather than establishing a clear set of guidelines for pistol brace makers and gun owners to know if they’re in compliance with the law.

That hasn’t changed, even with the ATF’s withdrawal of the proposed guidance. The agency has taken the first step by suspending the proposed guidance, which also would have established an amnesty for all gun owners to register their firearms equipped with pistol braces, but now it needs to follow through by actually working with the industry to come up with the clear standards that they’ve been asking for.

The response from gun owners to the proposed rule was clearly far more than what the agency was expecting. As I mentioned on Twitter today, comments were pouring in to the ATF even faster than they did when the agency tried to ban green tip ammo back in 2015.

If you’re reading this and submitted your comment to the ATF, thank you. There’s no doubt in my mind that the response from the 2A community made an impact.

I was planning on writing a story tomorrow about a comment submitted by Ryan Petty, whose daughter was murdered in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. If you don’t know Ryan, you might think that his comment was going to be all in favor of the ATF’s vague and arbitrary guidance that the agency had proposed, but that’s not the case. Ryan is a firm believer in the right of armed self-defense and our right to keep and bear arms, and even though the ATF appears to be putting the guidance on hold, I still think his comment is worth sharing in its entirety, and I thank him for sharing it with me.

“Losing my daughter Alaina in the Parkland school attack gave me a voice in the debate surrounding the Second Amendment. As a Commissioner tasked with investigating the tragedy, it was immediately clear that no infringement on the rights of law-abiding gun owners would have changed the events of that day.

The latest proposed ATF regulations will do nothing to improve the safety or security of Americans. We must be vigilant against those that would take our liberties while offering nothing more than the illusion of safety.”

Again, thank you to the Second Amendment community for your vigilance. Our job isn’t done and the fight isn’t over, however. As the ATF stated, they could reschedule this guidance after that “further review” by the DOJ, and it’s entirely possible that the proposed guidance gets reintroduced after Joe Biden’s pick for Attorney General takes over the job. We’ll continue to keep a close watch on what’s happening with the proposed guidance, and look for an extensive update on Monday’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co.