The ATF unilaterally decided to ban stabilizing braces. Why? Because people liked putting them on AR pistols, which made them easier to use and potentially carry.
Never mind that the AR platform is so modular that someone could easily put a full stock on a short-barreled AR without the NFA registration if they so desired and do so quite easily. Nope, the fact that people might, potentially be using a lawful device on a lawful firearm that would make it easier to use that lawful firearm just couldn’t be tolerated.
Obviously, the rule has been challenged.
Down in Florida, Attorney General Ashley Moody offered a legal opinion on stabilizing braces.
“The Second Amendment is alive and well in Florida and our state laws protect the gun rights of law-abiding citizens. We issued this important legal opinion to provide clarity about our state law as the federal government continues to overreach in an effort to over-regulate certain firearm accessories,” said Moody.
The opinion deals solely with Florida state law and has no bearing on the ATF’s action. The opinion states: “Unless and until judicially or legislatively clarified, I conclude that the definition of ‘short-barreled rifle,’ which the Legislature enacted in 1969, does not include a handgun, such as a pistol, to which a person attaches a stabilizing brace, because the use of such an optional accessory does not change the fundamental characteristics of the handgun.” Separately, the state of Florida is challenging the ATF interpretation.
Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t be prosecuted by the ATF just because you’re in Florida.
However, Moody’s overall remarks are absolutely spot-on. A pistol doesn’t stop becoming a pistol simply because you put a stabilizing brace on it.
“But the braces let people skirt the rules on short-barreled rifles!” some have argued.
My response, however, is a big old, “So what?”
A short-barreled rifle isn’t inherently more deadly than any other long gun. Slapping a stabilizing brace on a semi-auto pistol version of a modern sporting rifle doesn’t change that dynamic, either. Yes, someone might shoulder the gun, but I’m going to let the ATF in on something.
Bad guys aren’t really going to care all that much what you say they can and can’t do.
Look, someone once said that an AR-15 was like Barbie for me. I’d say it’s more like Mr. Potato Head for adults. There are so many accessories that can be mixed and matched that it’s mind-boggling. Yet the flip side is that pretty much anyone can put a stock on a short-barreled AR pistol if they want.
All the stabilizing brace rule does is make things difficult for law-abiding citizens.
As Moody correctly notes, nothing really changes when you put a brace on a pistol. It never has and it never will.
My sincere hope, however, is that the courts see it the same way, especially in light of things like the Bruen decision. We deserve better from our federal government. We just have to make them provide better for a change.