Describing them as "concealable assault-style rifles," a group of Democrats in Congress called on President Biden Wednesday to regulate semi-auto rifle-caliber pistols under the National Firearms Act. 

In a letter penned by Democrat U.S. Reps. Val B. Demings (FL-10), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Ed Perlmutter and Mike Thompson (CA-05), then signed by roughly half their caucus, contends that AR- and AK-style pistols should be covered under the NFA, a move that would require $200 tax stamps, registration, and layers of ATF red tape. 

"Concealable assault-style firearms that fire rifle rounds pose an unreasonable threat to our communities and should be fully regulated under the National Firearms Act consistent with the intent and history of the law," says the letter, urging Biden to "to immediately promulgate regulations to cover these concealable assault firearms under the National Firearms Act."

Despite what the letter contends, AR pistols have been available on the U.S. consumer market for over 40 years, in compliance with established federal law and definitions on handguns and how they differentiate from NFA-regulated short-barreled rifles.

The Gwinn/Bushmaster 5.56mm NATO Armpistol, a compact 20-inch-long bullpup handgun that utilized some AR-15 parts, was around back in the early 1970s. By 1986, the Australian Automatic Arms Corp was exporting its SAP pistol to the U.S., an AR-15-ish handgun with a fiberglass receiver and forearm along with a 10.5-inch barrel. As early as 1993, the Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot and the Olympic Arms OA93, both full-fledged AR-pattern handguns were being sold on the market. 

Even during the decade-long federal assault weapon ban that ran from 1994 to 2004, some of these handguns were barred from production under an arbitrary 50-ounce unloaded weight limit and other characteristics that defined the guns as "assault pistols" but they were not subject to NFA regulation. Olympic at the time responded to the ban with modified versions of the OA93, the lightened and featureless OA-96 and OA-98 pistols, which were compliant. 

Should a rule change by ATF, pushed by the Biden administration, specifically target AR/AK style pistols and similar firearms, it could easily impact tens of millions of gun owners. A February 2021 report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service-- which is readily available to the lawmakers who signed this week's letter-- stressed there could be as many as 40 million such firearms in circulation, a figure that isn't as far out as it sounds with the widespread availability of receivers for pistol builds in recent years.

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