ATF Rule Could Make Some Tennessee Gun Owners Felons

John M. Dabbs

A new ATF ruling may turn as many as 40 MILLION Americans into felons. The rule concerns firearm pistol braces. It doesn’t leave gun owners with many options to obey the new rule. They'll either have to destroy the firearm, turn it in, or apply for a tax stamp and hope it will arrive before the rule takes effect in the next 120 days.

Stephen Stamboulieh, Attorney for Gun Owners of America, says the ATF released the final version of the rule on Friday, January 13. Once published in the Federal Register, it goes into effect within 120 days and has the effect of law. Once it's published in the Federal Register, everyone is deemed to be on notice.

The rule was published in the Federal Register today, January 31, 2023. The document citation is 88 FR 6478, pages 6478-6575 (98 pages). Any weapons with "stabilizing braces" or similar attachments that constitute rifles under the NFA must be registered no later than May 31, 2023.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) says the rule addresses stabilizing braces and accessories to convert pistols into "short-barreled rifles." The DOJ submitted to the Federal Register the “Stabilizing Braces” Final Rule, which makes clear that when manufacturers, dealers, and individuals use stabilizing braces to convert pistols into rifles with a barrel of fewer than 16 inches, commonly referred to as short-barreled rifles. The DOJ says they must comply with the laws that regulate those rifles, including the National Firearms Act (NFA). In April 2021, at an event with President Biden, the Attorney General directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to address the issue of stabilizing braces.

“Keeping our communities safe from gun violence is among the Department’s highest priorities. Almost a century ago, Congress determined that short-barreled rifles must be subject to heightened requirements. Today’s rule clarifies that firearm manufacturers, dealers, and individuals cannot evade these important public safety protections simply by adding accessories to pistols that transform them into short-barreled rifles.” - Attorney General Merrick B. Garland

“This rule enhances public safety and prevents people from circumventing the laws Congress passed almost a century ago. In the days of Al Capone, Congress said back then that short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns should be subjected to greater legal requirements than most other guns. The reason is that short-barreled rifles have the greater capability of long guns, yet are easier to conceal, like a pistol,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “But certain so-called stabilizing braces are designed to attach to pistols, essentially converting them into short-barreled rifles to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, they must be treated similarly under the statute.”

Since the 1930s, the NFA has imposed requirements on short-barreled rifles because they are more easily concealable than long-barreled rifles but have more destructive power than traditional handguns. Beyond background checks and serial numbers, those heightened requirements include taxation and registration requirements that include background checks for all transfers, including private transfers. Often, when pistols are converted to rifles by using a stabilizing brace covered by the rule, they have barrels less than 16 inches in length and must comply with the exact heightened requirements that apply to short-barreled rifles under the NFA.

The rule goes into effect on the publication date in the Federal Register. The rule allows for a 120-day period for manufacturers, dealers, and individuals to register tax-free any existing NFA short-barreled rifles covered by the rule. Other options include removing the stabilizing brace to return the firearm to a pistol or surrendering covered short-barreled rifles to ATF. Nothing in this rule bans stabilizing braces or the use of stabilizing braces on pistols.

On June 7, 2021, the Department of Justice issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, and during the 90-day open comment period, the ATF received more than 237,000 comments.

The final rule, as submitted to the Federal Register, can be viewed here:

You can follow all the information at Gun Owners of America at You can follow Stephen Stamboulieh on Twitter at @Stambo2A.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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