Ever since announcing its brace ban –the ATF’s intent to turn braced pistols into Short Barreled Rifles via bureaucratic magic and no legislative oversight– the ATF has run into what should be obvious difficulties. The justification for its purported authority to do this in the first place has been called into question by the overturning of the bump stock ban in federal appeals court. The ruling, citing Chief Justice Marshall –who served 1801-1835– explicitly stated that congress, not a federal law enforcement agency, holds the “power of punishment”.
Any reasonable person would be excused for believing that this would chasten the ATF into rescinding, or at least adjusting their impending brace ban, which transubstantiates brace-equipped pistols into short-barreled rifles. After all, that’s exactly what they attempted to do with bump stocks. Both devices were approved for retail sale over and over by the ATF for years before, ignoring their own definitions of what a machinegun/rifle stock is, the ATF decided to reverse its position and declare them NFA items by fiat.
Meanwhile, as the brace ban has come under fire with its entire justification called into question on legal grounds, ATF Director Dettelbach has publicly stated that one has simply to remove the offending brace from a pistol to comply with the rule –never forget that it is simply that, an administrative rule written by cops, and not a law passed by an elected legislature–. Nevermind that the rule as written requires essentially all pistols equipped with braces to be registered as NFA items –alongside grenade launchers, machineguns, and anti-aircraft guns– unless the owner will “permanently remove and dispose of, or alter, the ‘stabilizing brace’ such that it can never be reattached.”.
The ATF has a history of changing its mind to shift with political winds, and it seems its current director is eager to do the same in pursing this brace ban. None of this is news, unfortunately, but what is news is the director’s apparent failure to read his proposal, or willful misleading of the public on what it actually means. Neither option is appealing, but whatever the truth, WV AG Patrick Morrisey is calling him out, in addition to co-leading half the country in a lawsuit meant to stop this rule from going into effect. Until then, we can only hope that there is some kind of meaningful response to his calling out Director Dettelbach on his weasel-wording statements.