Comments on the ATF's proposed "Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces"

This is the full text of the commentary I submitted in response to the ATF's proposed regulations, "Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces" which can be found here:

I strongly encourage everyone reading this to follow the instructions on that page to submit commentary. As a gun community, submitting respectful, articulate, strong objections as comments to a proposed regulation, we managed to stop the government from banning M855 ammunition. Together we can stop this.


I hereby state my objection to all proposed regulations in Docket ATF2020-R10. I will elaborate my strongest and most specific objectons below, and none of my words should be construed as support for any portion of the proposed regulations.

For the purposes of this comment, I may use the terms “handgun” and “pistol” interchangeably, the terms “pistol brace,” “stabilizing brace,” and “brace” interchangeably.

First I object to the comment period allowed for this docket. Currently, it is well known that the US Postal Service is experiencing service issues in the form of excessively delayed mail, lost mail, and loads of mail sitting at distribution centers for a long period of time. The mail is an acceptable form of submission for comments on this docket, and this length of comment period virtually guarantees that valid comments will be submitted well before the end of the period, and will still be thrown out due to mail delays completely outside the control of the author. This strips those who are uncomfortable with technology, unskilled in the use of technology, or underprivileged in access to technology, and thus likely to choose to mail their comments, from the ability to participate in this process. Aside from issues of practicality, 18 USC 926 states (and the ATF’s own NFA handbook, paragraph 1.4.1 affirms) that a ninety day comment period is required by law. This short of a comment period is plainly illegal.

Second, I object to the insistence of the ATF that a handgun is only a handgun if it is designed to be fired with one hand. There are countless firearms that are nearly impossible, let alone impractical, to fire one hand, yet have been allowed by the ATF without objection or controversy to be marketed, sold, and classified as a handgun. This includes large-bore firearms such as the Israeli Military Industries (IMI) Desert Eagle, Magnum Research Desert Eagle, Smith & Wesson X-Frame revolvers, Smith & Wesson J Frame revolvers, or Glock handguns chambered in 10mm, just to name a few examples. Due to the excessive weight of these firearms, even the most experienced shooters have considerable difficulty properly aiming these firearms with one hand. Due to the excessive recoil of these firearms, even the most experienced shooters have considerable difficulty controlling these firearms with one hand. Being unable to aim a handgun properly and being unable to ensure the muzzle remains pointed in a generally safe direction means the firearm cannot possibly be used in that way. The ATF has continued to allow these firearms to be considered handguns despite the requirement of two-handed operation being absolute and undisputed. There also exist many instances where either the manufacturer or the user, by way of aftermarket accessories, adds a part to areas of the firearm other than the primary grip, that may be designed for a number of uses, including but not limited to carrying the firearm when not in use, or a safety measure protecting the user from being burned or pinched by hot or moving metal parts. It has been the ATF’s practice to consider these as “secondary grips” and a de facto indicator that the firearm is designed for two-handed operation. Adding one-handed operation as a requirement for a firearm to be considered a handgun creates a dangerous precedent that could lead to large bore handguns being considered rifles. The proposed regulations go on to articulate that weight, recoil, and secondary grips are part of the proposed methods for evaluating a handgun, which only reinforces these concerns. This is unacceptable.

Third, I object to the measurement termed “length of pull” by the ATF being used to evaluate whether or not something is a pistol. Pistols do not have a shoulder stock, therefore “length of pull” does not exist. A firearm would only have length of pull by being classified as a rifle. This is, in addition, discriminatory towards those with various forms of disabilities, birth defects, amputations, and artificial limbs, who may wish to use a stabilizing brace so they can enjoy the sport and tradition of shooting. It is impossible to have one length for this measurement the ATF has termed “length of pull” for the stabilizing brace that will be effective for all users it is meant to help. This is why most braces are adjustable to a broad range of lengths. Limiting this length at all ensures there will be people who are forced to forego their ability to shoot larger firearms without paying a tax stamp. This is unacceptable.

Fourth, I object to the interchangeability of parts with known shoulder stocks as a proposed dispositive for evaluating a stabilizing brace. In an industry where standardized part specifications are far more common than proprietary designs, it is inevitable that stabilizing braces may share parts with shoulder stocks. This may be due to those parts already being the best, strongest, or most efficient design, and more often than not it makes the production less expensive by removing the need for multiple development periods for new parts, multiple sets of tooling, multiple production runs, among the dozens of additional costs added when two parts that accomplish the same task are not interchangeable. If parts cannot be interchangeable between braces and stocks, it will force the manufacturers of stocks to spend more money on developing proprietary parts and producing those parts. These costs will be passed on to the buyer, which forces those with a legitimate need to use a stabilizing brace to pay more for necessary equipment. Creating an arbitrary rule that is certain to result in prices rising for only a small group of disadvantaged people is discriminatory. This is unacceptable.

Fifth, I object to the aim point being used as a point of evaluation on whether or not a firearm is a handgun. Psychological, physical, and environmental conditions and variables exist that can produce any number of different results in an aimpoint evaluation. If a person other than the owner of the firearm shoots the firearm to evaluate it, they may have different physical traits that create a different result than when the owner of the firearm shoots it, especially if the owner has any of the physical traits that make a stabilizing brace absolutely necessary. If the owner of the firearm is forced to shoot it as part of an investigation or evaluation, they are likely to experience psychological stress that impacts their accuracy. And, there exists the chance that they may simply be a poor marksman, or that their physical traits limit their marksmanship ability, which additionally may result in them adjusting their sights in a way that would result in anybody else experiencing a wildly inaccurate firearm. Nobody should be disallowed from enjoying their chosen hobby simply because they couldn’t do it very well. On this note, some may experience the need to use both a stabilizing brace in combination with a bipod or monopod in order to produce an accuracy result that is satisfactory to them. The proposed regulations would disallow this. These two proposed dispositives are discriminatory. This is unacceptable.

Sixth, I object to the ATF characterizing the current classification of pistols equipped with braces as a “misunderstanding”. Countless gun owners have a pistol brace and a letter, supplied to them by the manufacturer of the brace, supplied to that manufacturer by the ATF’s Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD), officially declaring that the device is a brace and not a stock. This is not a misunderstanding. This is the ATF arbitrarily changing position. This creates chaos, confusion, inconsistency, and generates far more new questions than the proposed regulations seek to answer. This is unacceptable.

Seventh, I object to current pistols equipped with braces being retroactively considered rifles or shotguns and added to the SBR or SBS NFA registry. Gun owners in possession of NFA items are regularly hassled by law enforcement and overzealous private citizens over carrying a copy of their tax stamp. Federal Firearms Licensees and their employees who are Special Occupational Taxpayers are also often in possession of an NFA item belonging to the licensee, but are off the licensed premise. This is specifically allowed by the NFA handbook, but often generates confusion as no tax stamp exists for the item when in possession of an FFL or bona fide employee. Creating a situation where some firearms with a pistol brace are now NFA items and others are not puts the owners of those that are not in a difficult position. To name a few possible scenarios, an uninformed law enforcement officer may demand to see the tax stamp of a firearm that is not, in fact, an NFA item, but is equipped with a brace. Many shooting ranges, require shooters of NFA items show a copy of the tax stamp for that firearm before being allowed to enter with it. A shooting range might disallow a shooter to enter with a braced pistol due to having a brace, errantly believing the pistol is an NFA item. This kind of discrimination is through no fault of those who directly perform it, but are confused by the proposed duality of whether or not a brace is in fact a stock. This confusion is solely the responsibility of the ATF, despite no solutions being offered for how to avoid it. This is unacceptable.

The proposed regulations in Docket ATF 2020-R10 are unacceptable and I object to them in the strongest way.

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