ATF Continues Rogue Assault on Common Pistols, Rule of Law

NRA 1911 Officers
Rogue elements of the ATF continue their assault on certain types of common semi-automatic pistols. IMG NRA-ILA

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Rogue elements of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) are continuing their assault on certain types of commonly-owned semi-automatic pistols. According to the law firm Wiley, ATF has developed a new interpretation of “handgun” that threatens to curtail the supply of foreign-manufactured pistols and could put many law-abiding gun owners in legal jeopardy.

In early October, NRA-ILA alerted gun owners to an ATF decision regarding firearm manufacturer Q LLC’s Honey Badger pistol. Back in August, ATF sent a cease and desist letter to Q LLC notifying the company that the agency had determined the Honey Badger, which comes equipped with a pistol stabilizing brace – to be subject to the National Firearms Act as a short-barreled rifle.

The determination was very concerning for many in the firearms industry and community, as pistol stabilizing braces have become a popular accessory to many commonly-owned semi-automatic pistols. Since 2012, ATF had repeatedly found that firearms with pistol stabilizing braces, like the one equipped on Q LLC’s Honey Badger pistol, were not “designed, made, and intended to be fired from the shoulder,” and were therefore not subject to regulation under the NFA. With no notice or opportunity for public input, ATF appeared to be reversing course.

Thanks to the efforts of concerned NRA members and other gun rights supporters, in mid-October ATF notified Q LLC that it would suspend its original determination for 60 days pending the outcome of the review by the Department of Justice.

Now, ATF appears to be attempting to limit the importation of certain large frame pistols.

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. 922(I)) it is unlawful “for any person, other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, who does not reside in any State to receive any firearms unless such receipt is for lawful sporting purposes.” Further, 18 U.S.C. 925(d)(3) provides that “The Attorney General shall authorize a firearm or ammunition to be imported or brought into the United States or any possession thereof if the firearm… is generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” Therefore, in most circumstances, in order to import a firearm into the U.S. the firearm must be “readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

This is what is known as the “sporting purposes test.” Under this regime, ATF has created a straight-forward point-based factoring criteria to determine what handguns may be imported. Federal law (18 U.S.C. 921(A)(29)) defines a handgun as “a firearm which has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand.” Handguns earn various amounts of points for individual characteristics and a minimum point threshold is required to pass the “sporting purposes test.” The “sporting purpose test” and ATF criteria were created with the goal of prohibiting the importation of small inexpensive handguns – so-called Saturday Night Specials. Therefore, the criteria favor larger and heavier handguns.

It is important to note that the “sporting purposes test” predates the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. The Heller decision made clear Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms for “lawful purposes, such as self-defense.” Given the Court’s emphasis on Americans’ right to access arms for a variety of lawful purposes, including self-defense, the continued validity of the “sporting purposes test” is dubious.

According to Wiley, in the last few months, ATF has altered its interpretation of the statutory definition of a “handgun” and appears to be moving away from just using its point-based factoring criteria for pistol imports.

Wiley noted, “In company-specific letters, [ATF] takes the position that if a submitted firearm is too long or too heavy, it fails to meet the definition of ‘handgun’ under the Gun Control Act, as it is not ‘designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand.’”

According to the documents provided to Wiley, ATF will now take into consideration the following “objective design features” when determining if a firearm meets the definition of a “handgun.”

  •        Incorporation of rifle sights;
  •        Utilization of “rifle caliber ammunition” (both 5.56mm and 7.62mm have been considered as such);
  •        Incorporation of “rifle-length barrel;”
  •        The “weapon’s heavy weight”
  •        Ability to accept magazines that range in capacity from 20 rounds to 100 rounds, “which will contribute to the overall weight of the firearm”; and
  •        The overall length of the weapon which “creates a front-heavy imbalance when held in one hand.”

However, Wiley also pointed out that ATF has made clear that the “objective design features” are “neither binding on future classifications nor is any factor individually determinative[.]

Therefore, much like with the Honey Badger pistol, ATF is using subjective criteria to determine how a given firearm is regulated – in this case in order to prohibit certain types of common semi-automatic pistols from being imported. This creates an untenable situation for firearms manufacturers and importers who are unable to predict ATF’s conduct, and thus how to comport their behavior to the law.

Even more dangerous Is how ATF’s recent reinterpretation of the “handgun” definition may affect millions of law-abiding gun owners. In recent years, the AR-15 and other intermediate cartridge semi-automatic pistols have become increasingly popular. If ATF were to apply a version of their new subjective interpretation of the “handgun” definition to these firearms the agency could find that these common pistols are not “handguns.”

Such an interpretation could place these common pistols under NFA regulation as “Any Other Weapon[s]” (AOW). AOWs are required to be registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Possessing an unregistered AOW is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment in federal prison.

In response to the Honey Badger classification and pistol import changes, Congressmen Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) recently sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo asking them to quickly address the inconsistent and unlawful actions of the agency. Congressman Hudson noted “ATF’s decision will turn law-abiding citizens into criminals overnight. As one of the strongest defenders of our Second Amendment rights in Congress, I appreciate my colleagues joining me in this effort to urge Attorney General Barr to protect the Constitution, end this injustice, and prevent it from going any further.”

A vital component of a free society is the rule of law. This includes the right of the citizenry to be placed on notice as to how they must conduct themselves in order to comply with the law. ATF’s recent haphazard and unpredictable interpretations of federal gun law imperil law-abiding gun owners and the companies who serve them.


About NRA-ILA:

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess, and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

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Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
28 days ago

UPDATE from WILD BILL: WB got ahold of me, he was able to follow some of what’s going on here and sent me the following. I asked if I could post it verbatim and he said yes, so here it is. It’s also proof of life. %-) Dave, There seems to be some confusion developing, at Ammoland, about the origin of the BATFE. Could you, please tell the readership that the BATFE was not illegally formed. Please see below. BATFE was formed by the Secretary of the Treasury, to be a sub agency of the Treasury, which is perfectly legal… Read more »

F Riehl, Editor in Chief
Admin

Dave; thank you for reaching out to Wild Bill, he has been a great supporter of AmmoLand News, and his participation is missed. I hope he is healthy and happy?

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
28 days ago

Fredy,

He and his lady are fine. He’s had some computer issues and A LOT on his plate, but when it all shakes out he’ll be back.

Stag
Stag
29 days ago

It’s hilarious that the NRA is trying to spin this as the ATF has gone rogue. The NRA has not only supported but actually helped write the very laws the ATF enforces. Two people could put a stop to this right now and those two people are Trump and Barr. Neither one is pro-2A so good luck with that.

Laddyboy
Laddyboy
29 days ago

The “atf” was formed by an “irs” administrator —- NOT Congress. Thus, the BUREAUCRACY known as the “atf / batf / atfe — etc.” IS an ILLEGAL entity and MUST be DISMANTLED along with ALL of its ILLEGALLY formed “rules or SO-CALLED “laws”!!!!!!! The SUBVERSIVES working inside of this bureaucracy MUST be held accountable a TREASONOUS TRAITORS to OUR American Constitution which IS the SUPREME LAW of the LAND.

UncleT
UncleT
29 days ago

Anyone else seeing what the govt/ATF is doing here? They’re flooding the new guidelines and regulations so we can’t keep up with the lawsuits / court challenges… Wait til Biden takes office. He will unleash the hounds… .. Plus, we still have no guarantees SCOTUS will still hear these cases…. We are screwed. Hell is coming faster than we know folks…

Sisu
Sisu
1 month ago

And the NRA-ILA is (has been) doing “what” to challenge these seemingly arbitrary, clearly unconstitutional (unlawful administrative rules) ?

Jeffersonian
Jeffersonian
1 month ago

And yet, NRA has an entire Law Enforcement Training Division.

hippybiker
hippybiker
29 days ago
Reply to  Jeffersonian

SJSU and Jeffersonian. That’s why I gave up on the NRA 30 years ago! GAO!

hippybiker
hippybiker
29 days ago
Reply to  hippybiker

Rory for typos Sisu GOA

hippybiker
hippybiker
1 month ago

Sporting purposes?! If my recollection of history is correct, isn’t the “Sporting Purposes” criteria the same language that the NAZIs used in their weapons control act?
This seems reasonable due to the fact that the GCA of 1968 is almost word for word of that German Weapons Control Act. Thank you, traitorous D**k sucker Thomas J. Dodd!
No where in the Second Amendment does the term “Sporting Purposes” appear. For that matter, I’ve never seen it mentioned in any part of the Constitution or the writings of our founders! Abolish the GCA of 1968 and the rouge ATF!

Will
Will
1 month ago

ABOLISH ATF,RESCIND NFA!

RoyD
RoyD
1 month ago

FTBATFE.

Nanashi
Nanashi
1 month ago

A reminder the NRA is responsible for the 1968 GCA and its import provisions.

Green Mtn. Boy
Green Mtn. Boy
1 month ago
Reply to  Nanashi

The terrible but factual truth of Negotiating Rights Away.

Knute
Knute
1 month ago
Reply to  Green Mtn. Boy

Don’t forget their support for the NFA of 1934! They practically wrote that one themselves. Including the idiocy of the SBR and SBS crap that is only now being exposed for just how stupid it really is. Wayne LaTrine wasn’t THAT big a drive into greater evil for them. Just a 2 foot putt really. 🙂

Green Mtn. Boy
Green Mtn. Boy
1 month ago
Reply to  Knute

@ Knute

I usually post it this way, Negotiating Rights Away since 1934..