Monday, May 20, 2024

Rep. Massie: Did Clueless ATF Head Create ‘New Legal Defense’ for Noncompliant Gun Owners?

'If he was wrong, he may have just put millions of owners in legal jeopardy...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USAA controversial rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will go into effect at the end of this month, requiring that owners of guns with stabilizing braces either destroy, reconfigure, register or turn in their firearms to ATF.

The impending rule could criminalize millions of gun-owning Americans, according to Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who spoke about it at an ATF oversight hearing last week.

Stabilizing arm braces are accessories installed on pistols and shotguns that allow users to stabilize these firearms against their arms, resulting in more accurate shooting without compromising safety or comfort, and reducing the risk of bruising and other injuries when shooting from one hand.

At last week’s hearing, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach suggested that gun-owners can comply with his new rule simply by detaching the stabilizing brace from their gun, which can take seconds to do.

“We wrote the rule to make it easy to comply with,” Dettelbach said.

“If somebody just, at their home, detaches their weapon from the brace and keeps them apart, they do not have to register anything,” he added. “They can keep the brace. They can keep the business-end of the gun.”

Dettelbach added that gun owners could face charges “if they’re detaching them as we’re approaching them,” but should otherwise be safe from prosecution.

But Dettelbach’s claim during his congressional testimony runs counter to official guidance published by his own bureau in January.

The guidance said gun owners must “permanently remove and dispose of, or alter, the stabilizing brace such that it cannot be reattached, thereby removing the weapon from regulation as a ‘firearm’ under the NFA.”

Massie raised concerns about the conflicting advice on Wednesday.

“Did the ATF Director create a new legal defense for millions of pistol brace owners in his sworn testimony?” he asked on Twitter. “He suggested that compliance can be achieved by simply detaching the accessory from the firearm, but his advice could conflict with other ATF guidance.”

Massie said he’ll be sending Dettelbach a letter asking him to clarify whether the compliance option he suggested for pistol brace owners was accurate and complete.

“If he was wrong, he may have just put millions of owners in legal jeopardy,” the congressman said.

Meanwhile, the ATF’s new rule is being challenged by a lawsuit from the Second Amendment Foundation.

The lawsuit explains that the ATF recently claimed authority to regulate braced pistols by classifying them as short-barreled rifles, which makes them subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act.

The decision to treat braced pistols as rifles reverses a position the ATF had as recently as 2014, when the bureau said in a classification letter that shouldering a pistol with an arm brace does not change the classification of the pistol under federal law.

The Second Amendment Foundation criticized the ATF’s reversal as arbitrary and unlawful.

“The definition of a ‘rifle’ now turns on a bewildering six-factor test,” explained Second Amendment Foundation attorney Chad Flores.

“This new definition can be controlled not by the firearm’s objective characteristics, but instead by what ATF agents in D.C. think of a manufacturer’s marketing materials or the firearm’s ‘likely use,’” Flores continued. “The new rule itself is forced to admit its dramatic result: Under this new definitional regime, ‘a majority of the existing firearms equipped with a stabilizing brace are likely to be classified as rifles.’”

Other plaintiffs in that lawsuit include a disabled combat veteran and injured police officer, both who require stabilizing braces to operate their firearms.

The lawsuit had been stagnant while the ATF finalized its rule, but will now resume.

Dettelbach, a Biden political appointee who assumed office last July, was lampooned during his prior congressional testimony for pleading ignorance on another gun-related issue, insisting he did not know how to define an “assault weapon” even though the ATF is actively attempting to ban them.

He also was unable to say how many weapons remained unaccounted for from the bureau’s previous “Fast and Furious” operation during the Obama administration. The scandal involved making illegal gun sales to Mexican drug cartels and others under the guise of tracking organized crime

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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