The ATF’s stabilizing pistol brace rule went into effect January 31, 2023. The ATF generously offered an “amnesty period” of 120 days, which expired May 31, 2023. During the “amnesty” period, owners of firarms commonly known as “AR/AK Pistols” with pistol stabilizing braces attached to them had the opportunity to register these firearms as “Short Barreled Rifles” (SBR) at no charge (no $200 tax stamp fee) so as not to be counted as one of the 30 to 40 million newly created felons in the US. That’s where we were and where we’ve been. Now that we’re a month out from the May 31 deadline, what do we do now? Here’s the latest update.
Legal Status of the “Rule”
Since it’s not a law, and Congress had nothing to do with creating it, the ATF’s pistol brace rule is not constitutional. That said, various agencies of the Federal government (ATF, EPA, etc.) have taken on the strategy of “so what?”, meaning they’re making rules without congress and enforcing them during the time period when “we the people” fight back through the courts (and through non-compliance).
The EPA has been slapped down twice in the last 2 years by the Supreme Court for this exact strategy: making “rules” or “regulations” that are far beyond the scope of their authority. Last week, a Federal Judge vacated (legally annulled) the “80% receiver” rule. The ATF created that rule along with the pistol brace rule. Based on these recent decisions, we expect the pistol brace rule to be vacated, annulled, tossed out, or otherwise made unenforceable. Sometime in the future.
Also, a federal judge issued an injunction in the lawsuit filed by Firearms Policy Coalition and Maxim Defense (makers of a popular pistol brace), and has ruled that (a) members of FPC and (b) Maxim Defense customers are protected from the ATF “rule” until such time as the rule is finally buried by the SCOTUS. Also, Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) won a preliminary injunction in Texas. You are “protected” against prosecution for possession of a so-called “short barreled rifle” that used to be an AR/AK pistol with a stabilizing brace, if you are one of the following:
Finally, so you know you’re not alone, only about 250,000 people have registered their AR/AK pistols as SBRs, representing less than 1% compliance with the “rule”.
So What Do We Do TODAY?
According to the ATF, you still have the basic 4 pistol brace rule options that you can exercise at any time.
- Turn in the firearm to the ATF
- Destroy the firearm
- Remove the brace
- Change the barrel to a 16″ barrel
Now, we’re not sure exactly why anyone would opt for either of the first two options. The third option is by far the easiest. Just remove (or have our gunsmith remove) the brace. Then the firearm is perfectly legal, according to the Pistol Brace Rule. The director of the ATF literally said in their dealer training sessions in preparation for this rule, “just don’t keep it in the same sock drawer.”
“just don’t keep it in the same sock drawer.”The ATF
Replacing the barrel with a barrel that is at least 16″ is also fairly simple, though there’s obviously a cost involved. Our gunsmiths can do that as well. Bring your firearm into the store, and they’ll advise you what barrel choices you have, as well as lots of ways to improve the new aesthetics of the firearm, since it was built for a short barrel and now it’ll have a much longer barrel.
There Are Other Options
Kind of the impetus for this update is the other option: compliance. Yes, you can still register your AR/AK pistol as an SBR. It will cost you $200 for the tax stamp. The Amnesty period, during which there was no $200 fee, ended May 31.
The key to completing the Form 1 registration with the ATF is that you have to submit pictures of your firearm. In order to remain lawful, and not be arrested as an admitted felon, you must remove the brace prior to taking the Form 1 pictures. Yes, once you remove the brace, you’re actually legal, but that’s the point. To register an SBR, you are actually registering your intent to have an SBR.
So, for your AR/AK pistol, once you remove the brace, you’re “legal”, and now you can register your intent to SBR your firearm.
How to Stay “Legal”
To sum up, you can stay legal in this ongoing battle against the ATF’s Pistol Brace Rule by doing one of the following:
- Destroy it
- Give it to the government
- Remove the brace
- Change the barrel
- Register it as an SBR
We recommend option 3, and then wait patiently for our judicial process to do it’s magic.