With pistol brace deadline coming, confusion remains

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The ATF’s pistol brace rule goes into effect on Thursday. Millions of people who bought AR-style pistols with the attached braces–bought them in good faith, with the understanding that yes, the ATF said they were legal–will either have had to give up their braces or face prison.


Except, it’s not really that cut-and-dried, now is it?

There’s still an awful lot of confusion remaining on the subject.

But this month, two groups won injunctions against the ATF, and more rulings around the country are expected as the deadline hits.

In a key case, the Firearms Policy Coalition, teamed with pistol brace maker Maxim Defense, won an injunction in Texas. It was unclear who was covered by the decision, however — the few named in the suit or all FPC members and Maxim customers.

The coalition asked for a clarification over objections from the ATF, and the court said it was for all members and customers.

FPC sent out emails claiming that by joining, “you will be covered under the injunction.”

But Second Amendment experts warned that only those who were members or customers when the suits were filed are covered.

“Anyone who can document the fact that they were a member of FPC at the time to the commencement of the suit are protected. Those who joined afterwards are not,” advised Virginia Second Amendment lawyer John Pierce.

Now, the FPC’s argument is that they fought for the rights of all their members, not just a subsection of that membership. This has led to many scurrying to get FPC memberships as soon as possible.

Then, of course, we have other lawsuits in the works where new rulings may muddy the waters all the more.

Plus, let’s not forget ATF director Steve Dettelbach’s comments about just taking the pistol brace off of your pistol. That conflicts with paperwork on pistol braces from the ATF itself, but a lot of people aren’t reading that. They’re likely to think just taking it off makes them good to go when it could instead make them a felon.


Right now, the absolute best-case scenario is a nationwide injunction pending a Supreme Court review of the pistol brace rule. That would likely overturn the rule entirely and things can continue as they should. Those who registered their pistols would be able to put a standard stock on it as it’s now a registered short-barreled rifle while those who didn’t won’t be breaking any laws.

Of course, if we just abolish the ATF, all of this could be avoided. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

So, we have to deal with things as they are, not as we wish they would be.

Look, all I’m going to tell you to do is to be careful. The legal situation is up in the air on pistol braces, sure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be arrested in the meantime. If you want to be the test case for a challenge of the rule, that’s on you, but know that going into things, not after the damage has already started.

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