The ATF is continuing to crack down on the Second Amendment. This time they’re rewriting the rules on AR-15 pistols. The move could make thousands of law abiding gun owners felons over night.
ATF is cracking down
Full sized AR-15s, with a 16 inch barrel or longer, are considered rifles. Short barreled AR-15s, with an overall length of under 26 inches, are classified as pistols. If an AR-15 has a barrel shorter than 16 inches and an overall length of more than 26 inches, it is considered a short barrel rifle and it must be registered with a special tax stamp according to the National Firearms Act.
Sound confusing? It is. All of these firearms are essentially the same, plus or minus a few inches. Many people own AR pistols with a brace on it, which makes it easier to fire. Now the brace is coming under more scrutiny by the ATF. The agency is looking to redefine what makes a specific brace-equipped pistol as a ‘short-barreled’ firearm as regulated under the NFA.
The new criteria include: the firearm’s type, caliber, weight, and length, the design of the brace itself, whether the firearm can be properly aimed when using the attachment as a brace, and whether an optic that cannot properly be used one-handed is present (i.e., something that suggests intent). The agency also indicates that it will observe the marketing of firearms and accessories, as well as other more subjective factors.
Second Amendment under attack
In other words, if the ATF thinks you intend to fire your AR pistol from the shoulder, that would make it a short barrel rifle, and it would need to be registered accordingly. Some Republican politicians are speaking out. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with a dozen other GOP members sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Regina Lombardo to express concerns about the ATF’s practice of relying on non-public standards in its regulation of the importation of AR styled pistols and pistol stabilizing braces.
In the letter, the senators wrote: “ATF has a responsibility to clearly and distinctly articulate its position, in order to inform the public of changing regulations as soon as possible. A ‘know-it-when-you-see-it’ approach to firearms by the ATF can quickly become a slippery slope for all legal American gun owners as well as government firearm regulation enforcement.”
In 2012, the ATF issued guidance which stated the attachment of arm braces to large pistol platforms does not make it a short-barreled rifle. That standard has been made less clear this year, as private letters to gun manufacturers have indicated the ATF considers firearms with a “length of pull” of over 13-1/2 inches that are designed to be fired from the shoulder are short-barreled rifles. In some letters, the ATF privately stated that even firearms which fall under the length standard can be classified as short-barreled rifles based on a collection of “indicators,” a list of which has yet to be published.