Massive non-compliance with ATF's pistol brace rule

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

More than a week has passed since the ATF’s ruling effectively banning pistol braces went into effect. We all knew this rule was unpopular, of course, and we also all suspected compliance was going to be anything but 100 percent.


However, we have numbers and it really is as bad, or worse, than we expected.

From earlier this week at The Reload:

Only a fraction of the guns affected by the ATF’s new rule were registered with the agency during the four-month grace period that ended this week.

The ATF told The Reload on Friday it has received just over a quarter million applications to register pistol-brace-equipped firearms. Registering the affected guns was one path toward avoiding possible criminal punishment for possessing the guns under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) after the agency implemented a rule reclassifying the firearms as subject to NFA restrictions. The ATF waived the tax requirement for registration to encourage owners to comply before the deadline.

“The final rule provided possessors of such firearms the option to comply with the registration requirements of the National Firearms Act through a tax-free process using either the ATF eForms System or a paper application process with a deadline for such applications of 11:59 PM (ET) on May 31, 2023,” Erik Longnecker, Deputy Chief of the ATF’s Public Affairs Division, told The Reload. “As of June 1, 2023, ATF received 255,162 applications for tax-free registration.”

That number represents just a fraction of the braced guns believed to have been sold in the decade since the ATF first classified a version as outside the scope of the NFA. In the impact assessment for the rule, the ATF estimated that three to seven million devices exist. However, the Congressional Research Service puts the number much higher at somewhere between 10 and 40 million.

That puts the registration rate for pistol-brace-equipped guns at between 0.6 percent and eight percent.


Now, it’s possible that a number of folks just gave their pistol braces to people who had registered their weapons and others simply destroyed them. Still others are exempt for now under injunctions for members of SAF, FPC, and GOA as well.

However, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t account for anywhere close to three million pistol brace owners, much less any 40 million.

So what gives?

Well, there are those who believe the rule will be thrown out in due course and figure they can lay low until that happens, for one thing.

Then there are those who bought their pistol-brace-equipped ARs lawfully but don’t actually follow gun rights/gun control discussions to any great extent. They’re ignorant of the law in question and so they’re felons and don’t realize it.

At least, they are for now.

The truth of the matter is that many gun owners are done. They’re sick of seeing unelected bureaucrats try to tell them what’s lawful and what isn’t and they’re not playing that game anymore, so they’re holding onto their pistol braces–possibly stored next to their bump stocks–and are just waiting until all of this evaporates in a court ruling.


And they’re likely to be rewarded for it, too.


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