Federal regulators on Wednesday reversed their course on a controversial notice about firearm stabilizing braces in at least a temporary win for the Second Amendment community.
Five days after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives posted the 15-page notice and request for comments in the Federal Register, igniting a firestorm of criticism, the agency backpedaled and withdrew it. The action mimicked the rapid reversal on the proposed regulation on M855 Greentip ammunition in 2015 that saw a similar outcry.
"Upon further consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, ATF is withdrawing, pending further Department of Justice review, the notice and request for comments entitled 'Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with ‘Stabilizing Braces’,” said Marvin G. Richardson, ATF's Associate Deputy Director. "As explained in the notice, the proposed guidance was not a regulation. The notice informed and invited comment from the industry and public on a proposed guidance prior to issuing a final guidance document."
The notice drew over 67,401 public comments in less than a week, of which only about 7,000 had been published by Wednesday afternoon. The overwhelming majority of published comments reviewed by Guns.com were opposed to enhanced regulation of stabilizer braces.
Further, the ATF was drawing fire on the proposal from Congress, with at least 90 lawmakers on Capitol Hill blasting the agency in a public letter this week.
"We are disturbed a government agency would issue guidance that would take away a disabled veteran’s ability to enjoy his constitutionally protected right," said the letter, penned by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, and signed by 89 fellow Republicans. "In fact, the ATF seems committed to attacking the constitutionally protected rights of all law-abiding citizens."
With upwards of 4 million braces in circulation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the firearms industry, has been warning of the potential impact the ATF's guidance would have had on the industry.
"NSSF has long requested the ATF to publish objective criteria by which firearm manufacturers can readily produce firearms equipped with arm braces in compliance with the law," said the group in a statement. "To date, the criteria is subjective and open to interpretation on a case-by-case basis. The guidance proposed by the ATF last week did little, unfortunately, to clear the ambiguity that exists with subjective criteria."
Meanwhile, gun rights organizations are warning that the win over braces, for now, may only be temporary as the matter is still “pending further Department of Justice review,” which could lead to ATF taking different, perhaps more aggressive actions shortly, especially under a Biden administration.
“The ATF’s withdrawal of their proposed guidance should be the end of the road for this assault on lawful accessories and law-abiding gun owners, but we know better," said Adam Kraut, an attorney and the Firearms Policy Coalition’s Director of Legal Strategy. "FPC will continue to carefully monitor and evaluate ATF policies and enforcement practices for violations of the law and our Constitution, and as we have before, rapidly respond with forceful and appropriate action."