GOP Senators Demand ATF Pull Proposed Rule On Pistol Braces

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Earlier this week four GOP senators, led by Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, penned a letter to acting ATF director Marvin Richardson expressing their concern over two rules proposed by the agency that could have a big impact on responsible gun owners. Now, 48 of the 50 Republicans in the Senate have sent another letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, demanding that the Department of Justice and the ATF pull one of the proposals completely.

The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski broke the story of the letter and its contents, in which they argue that the proposed rule regarding stabilizing braces will create a backdoor gun registration and ban affecting millions of gun owners around the country.

“The way the proposed rule is written makes clear that ATF intends to bring the most common uses of the most widely possessed stabilizing braces within the purview of the NFA,” the senators said in the letter. “Doing so would turn millions of law-abiding Americans into criminals overnight, and would constitute the largest executive branch-imposed gun registration and confiscation scheme in American history.”

The letter comes as negative public comments have flooded in on the proposal. Americans have already submitted over 100,000 comments and dozens of the comments reviewed by The Reload showed universal opposition to the proposal. If the proposal receives enough opposition, it could be pulled like other rule-change proposals in the past, including a similar pistol brace ban proposed last year and an Obama Administration attempt to ban a type of ammunition commonly used in AR-15s.

However, President Joe Biden doubled down on the brace ban Wednesday in his newly announced strategy to combat the rise in violent crime. The ATF cited just two crimes committed with braced pistols—mass shootings in Ohio and Colorado—in the proposal but did not explain whether the brace contributed to those crimes. The Republican senators said the proposal would do nothing to reduce the recent murder spike.

“A crime wave is sweeping America,” they said. “These aren’t broken-windows crimes; they are violent crimes like murder, assault, and robbery. But rather than cracking down on the criminals who are turning America’s cities into warzones, ATF and the Department of Justice have decided to go after law-abiding gun owners who are minding their own business and using equipment that ATF seemingly blessed in 2017.”

They’re not wrong, though I doubt that Merrick Garland or Joe Biden really give a damn about their argument. The push to ban pistol braces isn’t the result of any one shooting, but is part of a strategy on the part of the gun control lobby to use the administrative and regulatory power of the ATF to impose as many new restrictions as possible on gun owners. In fact, I’d argue that this proposed rule is a test case of sorts that could ultimately lead to the administration trying to retroactively declare tens of millions of semi-automatic rifles as items that can be “readily converted” into machine guns, and as such also need to be registered under the National Firearms Act.

Still, I’m glad the senators signed on to the letter, though I can’t help but wonder why Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Maine’s Susan Collins didn’t add their name. Collins’ omission is surprising to me, given that she just publicly came out as opposed to the nomination of gun control activist David Chipman to head up the ATF.

It’s also worth noting that Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania did sign on to this letter, though he’s been silent so far about whether or not he plans on voting to confirm Chipman as permanent director of the ATF. Meanwhile, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin told POLITICO on Wednesday that he’s not yet made up his mind about Chipman’s nomination.

“We’re working with him. I’ve spoken to him and I’m speaking with him again. I know there’s a lot of controversy,” Manchin said. “Just looking at everything I can. I really am undecided.”

In my opinion, any senator that objects to this proposed rule by the ATF should also be opposed to confirming Chipman. With a committed gun control ideologue in charge of the agency we’ll see many more attempts to use the ATF’s rulemaking powers to target legal gun owners with new restrictions and infringements on their right to keep and bear arms. Gun owners in Ohio and West Virginia should be contacting the offices of Portman and Manchin to express their own opposition to Chipman’s nomination, and gun owners in all 50 states should add their own public comment to the proposed rule on stabilizing braces before the public comment period ends in early September.