GOA is raising alarms that the ATF’s ruling on pistol braces, and the resultant pistol brace amnesty and registration period may not be as benign as it seems. In case you’ve missed it, this week the ATF released an administrative ruling that pistol braces -which they have specifically allowed the sale and use of for a decade- placed on a pistol as intended by the manufacturer constitute the construction of an unregistered NFA device. They have graciously offered a 120 day grace period in which some of the 40,000,000 people who bought braces can register their braced guns as SBRs, without the usual $200 fee.
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While this pistol brace amnesty period, and waived fee sound pretty great, there has been some understandable skepticism in the gun and legal communities surrounding the details of how this might actually shake out IRL, and they’ve raised some frightening and accurate points. The FBI often, for administrative reasons, fails to complete NICS background checks, to the tune of between 2-3% of the total. After 88 days those checks are purged, and any paperwork or progress simply vanishes, incomplete. It’s like the check was never initiated. Over a 5 year period, the number of such cases was over 1 million.
Now consider, (and this has been proposed by a GOA lawyer and confirmed by an ATF employee which must assume know their stuff) what might happen if you send in an application for what is legally an unregistered SBR, providing a photograph of said unregistered NFA item, along with all of your personal information to take advantage of this pistol brace amnesty. Say you got a late start, and took a while with the paperwork but still got your application in with two months to go before the pistol brace amnesty ends. But you wind up one of those >2% whose application falls off the back of a truck, and 88 days later, is purged. The ATF now knows that you are, under the law, a felon. Not only that, they know everything about you from where you live, to what you and your unregistered SBR look like. Per GOA Attorney Stephen Stamboulieh, ATF representatives @ SHOT 2023 confirmed they would prosecute in such a case.
The consequences of this are functionally life-changing -with up to a decade in federal prison, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and a federal firearms felony on your record- so it’s not without cause that the circumstances of the pistol brace amnesty are drawing attention. Notably the entire ruling is in question after a Federal Appeals Court overturned Trump’s similarly overreaching, contortionist logic bumpstock ban, but in the meantime, gun owners shouldn’t be afraid of a Federal LE Agency ruining their lives for simply attempting to comply with new regulatory decisions.
We’ll quote GOA’s twitter thread on the topic, but do go read it for yourself, and see what you think:
“After the gun registration amnesty window closes what happens if the application gets denied because an @ATFHQ bureaucrat doesn’t complete the background check on-time? (Denials are automatic after 88 days) A common bureaucratic denial could make compliant gun owners into FELONS!”
“This happens ALL THE TIME and it is UNACCEPTABLE that an @ATFHQ representative @NSSFShotShow told GOA attorney@Stambo2A that they would take enforcement action against a gun owner wishing to comply with this unconstitutional gun registration scheme.”
“The new rule creates background checks for up to 40 million firearms, and if the FBI statistics on not completing 2.2% of them stay the same, that means up to 880,000 new felons with a regulatory stroke of the pen & a bureaucratic screw up.”