- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2023

House lawmakers debated on Thursday the constitutionality of a new pistol brace rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, among other actions related to Second Amendment rights.

Under the new ATF rule — called “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached Stabilizing Braces” — gun owners who have a stabilizing brace attachment on their firearm must register the device by May 31 or face up to 10 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

“This rule will effectively turn many law-abiding gun owners into criminals if they failed to comply even though Congress did not act,” said Rep. Pat Fallon, Texas Republican and chairman of a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. “We didn’t pass any new criminal laws or penalties related to stabilizing [braces], we had unelected bureaucrats create a rule. It’s not the way this should work.”

The maker of the brace initially designed it to assist disabled individuals who could not utilize traditional pistols for self-defense or recreational firearms activity.

Since 2012, when the Obama administration’s ATF declared the brace would not convert a pistol’s classification to a short-barrel rifle and subjected it to the controls of the National Firearms Act, 40 million of these braces have been in the U.S. public circulation.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat and member of the Oversight panel, said the intended uses for stabilizing braces “have evolved significantly” since their inception. He said most braces are used to “exploit a loophole in the regulatory structure to allow owners to turn their weapons into short-barreled rifles” without requiring the usual ATF regulation.

At the joint hearing of the Judiciary and Oversight subcommittees, Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat, blamed “weak Republican laws” for people killing one another with firearms.

“In 2020, per capita, murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden,” she said. “Nine of the 10 states with the highest gun mortality rates, including my state of Missouri, are red states.”

Missouri Republican leaders, however, point the finger at St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, for not prosecuting violent crimes. Ms. Bush, who supported the “defund the police” movement, said that her political opponents always think “mass incarceration” is the answer.

“Many communities around this country face high rates of gun violence and are disproportionately targeted by the carceral infrastructure that becomes the default response to every single social problem,” she said. “This only results in compounding trauma and a cycle of violence. That doesn’t help anyone. The only path forward is through investing in our communities using evidence-based public health strategies that will solve this public health crisis.”

The pistol brace rule is among several actions taken by the ATF that Republicans are looking to take down by defunding, Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia recently told The Washington Times. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, said at Thursday’s hearing, which no ATF officials attended, that he plans to use the House’s new rules to eliminate their jobs.

“It is my sincere hope that, in the very near future, we will have those very folks from the ATF here,” he said. “And I intend to be utilizing the new rules that we have in the House of Representatives to offer amendments to the Appropriations Act to zero out their salaries for breaking the law and abusing the liberties of our fellow Americans.”

Entitled “ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?” Republicans and Democrats from the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance and House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs hearing, also discussed the agency’s actions toward Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) that have led to more revocations of dealers’ licenses.

In June of 2021, President Biden directed the Justice Department to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when inspecting firearms merchants and to revoke their license for any violation. The policy led the ATF to revoke licenses based on minor and technical paperwork errors. Revocations of FFLs skyrocketed in 2022.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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