Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is Demanding that the ATF Stop Messing With Gun Owners

A few months ago, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz sent a number of letters calling on Attorney General William Barr and Acting Director Regina Lombardo at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), to stop to the agency’s attempts to restrict “the possession of certain pistol braces by American citizens.”

Fellow congressmen Bill Posey, Greg Steube, John Rutherford, Ted Yoho, Neal Dunn, and Daniel Webster joined Gaetz in signing on to a June 16 letter that criticized the ATF’s “practice of relying on arbitrary, non-public standards to promulgate general firearms policy hidden from public scrutiny and awareness.”

Dave Workman of AmmoLand noted that “Pistol arm braces were developed to provide more stability for people using AR-15-type semiauto pistols” In addition, pistol braces have “become popular accessories, with more than 2 million+ sold to gun owners, according to the June 16th, 2020 letter.”

The letter highlighted how back in 2012, the “ATF initially welcomed the advent of pistol arm braces” and at the time “correctly determined that the attachment of arm braces to large pistol platforms does not constitute the manufacture of a short-barreled rifle.”

But like all bureaucratic guidelines, policies are subject to change. Gaetz responded firmly against these arbitrary changes.

“Despite initially welcoming the introduction of pistol arm braces,” the June 16 letter declared, “it has come to our attention that ATF is now attempting to restrict some of the most popular arm brace configurations by creating non-public standards that are not based in statute or regulation. For example, in determining whether an item is an arm brace or stock, ATF has, through private letters, created an inexhaustive list of what it considers ‘objective design features.’ With no basis in law, one of the ‘indicators’ chosen to make these determinations is ‘length of pull,’ which is the distance from the rear of the stabilizing brace to the trigger.”

“Unbeknownst to the general public,” Gaetz continued in his letter, “ATF has ordained in private determination letters that it considers ‘any firearm with a ‘length of pull’ over 13 ½ inches to be designed to be fired from the shoulder,’ thereby making it a short-barreled rifle.”

In the letter released back in June, Gaetz and his partners in Congress presented three questions to the Attorney General and the Acting Director:

  1. What specific criteria does ATF use to determine whether a firearm is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder?
  2. What specific ATF publications are available for Americans to determine whether their firearm is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder?
  3. How many firearms with affixed arm braces have been evaluated by the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division in support of other law enforcement agencies or criminal prosecutions?

Although the letter was not even noticed by the ATF, Gaetz, Posey, Yoho, and Steube sent out a second letter in late September to Barr and Lombardo. In the letter, they voiced increased satisfaction with the fact that the Justice Department had made attempts “to temper ATF’s rogue agenda of criminalizing firearms affixed with arm braces,” they as the agency “has decided to pursue, in secret, a ‘workaround’ to DOJs countermeasures that is hostile to citizens’ Second Amendment right and to due process.”

Additionally, the letter argues that the ATF “is now exploiting its criminal enforcement powers to threaten small business owners around the country into complying with made-up and shifting criteria for determining the difference between a pistol and a short-barreled rifle.”

The second letter requested that the ATF give a response to the questions brought forward in the June letter “no later than Friday, October 9.” The main question that this letter deals with is regarding the ATF’s controversial re-classification of the Honey Badger pistol that Q, LLC makes. The ATF classified it as a “short-barreled rifle.” The ATF sent Q, LLC a cease and desist letter on August 3. In it, the ATF informed the company about why it decided to reclassify its Honey Badger pistol. The letter noted the following:

The Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) examined the Honey Badger Pistol manufactured and marketed by Q, LLC and determined the firearm is a short-barreled rifle as defined under the NFA. A short-barreled rifle is subject to the registration, transfer, taxation, and possession restrictions regarding these regulated firearms, which include criminal penalties relating to the illegal transfer and possession of said firearms.

SB Tactical, a company that makes pistol arm braces, immediately stood in solidarity with Q, LLC. SB Tactical released a statement in which it declared that it “is disappointed by the recent ATF actions in classifying their Honey Badger™ pistol as a short-barreled rifle. This classification is based on a seemingly arbitrary set of criteria and promises to create unnecessary confusion and anxiety amongst millions of legal gun owners and the industry as a whole.”

“The ATF is saying, in part, that they will not evaluate an accessory as a stand-alone product,” SB Tactical’s statement added, “but that the characteristics of the entire firearm influence their decision. Characteristics such as optics chosen, magazine capacity, how the gun is marketed, or length of pull will “holistically” determine a firearm’s NFA classification. Moreover, the ATF has, to date, refused to clarify or state what characteristics define a Pistol Stabilizing Brace®. They have stated that “they will know it when they see it”.

“This arbitrary approach is creating confusion and uncertainty for millions of law-abiding citizens,” SB Tactical argues, “manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers.  SB Tactical is the inventor of the Pistol Stabilizing Brace and is deeply committed to our customers, the Second Amendment, and the rule of law. The ATF’s approach is unfair and unlawful.”

The four elected officials made it clear in their follow-up letter that the “ATF immediately cease abusing its enforcement authority by threatening law-abiding small business owners and the now estimated 3-4 million Americans who own firearms equipped with arm braces.”

“These devices are widely used by many Americans,” the letter observed, “and they are particularly popular among veterans—especially veterans with service-connected disabilities. For these men and women to have served our nation, and then to be arbitrarily deprived of their constitutional rights, is shameful, unconscionable, and wrong.”

Gun owners must come to grips with the reality that the ATF is not a friend of gun owners. Bureaucracies are not accountable to voters and infringe liberties behind closed doors and not subject to the wrath  of the voters at the ballot box. Defunding the ATF, if not outright abolishing it altogether, would deal a massive blow to the federal gun control regime.