Individual Opinion & Comments by Rob Pincus
Pistol braces have been a constantly controversial accessory since Sig Sauer made them mainstream with their SB-15 Brace at SHOT Show in 2014. The brace concept was originally developed by Alex Bosco, founder of SB Tactical. A good summary of the early history of the devices and a reminder of how quickly they become an area of confusion because of ATF ineptitude can be found in this article from 2015 by AmmoLand News’ own Christian Lowe. More than anything else, the lack of clarity around pistol braces, combined with the unreasonable burdens created by the National Firearms Act, create the circumstances under which significant restrictions could too easily be applied.
The 2AO Second Amendment Organization has long held a position that the lack of clarity around many laws and regulations from the BATFE makes it almost impossible for many in the firearms community to be confident that they are in compliance in several areas. We believe that responsible gun owners overwhelmingly act in good faith with the intention of following regulations and laws, even as our community pushes to have unconstitutional restrictions rescinded. This leads to many gun owners being intimidated away from exercising their rights because of concern about these gray areas. Gun Making, Traveling with Firearms, and exactly who needs to be a Federally Licensed Dealer are examples. We address several of the areas where more clarity is needed in our 2AO Position Statements. Note that “seeking clarity” in regard to an existing restriction does not mean that we find the restriction itself acceptable or appropriate. We need to do more than simply say “shall not be infringed!” when confronted with incremental restrictions… we are a long way from universal gun freedom in this country and it will take work to get there. That work involves clarifying and cleaning up existing laws, using new laws to protect rights (e.g.- Hearing Protection Act or a National Right to Carry), and, of course, doing away with unconstitutional infringements entirely when possible.
One area of regulation that exemplifies the need for clarity and protection of rights is pistol braces.
I believe it is very likely that Biden’s call for action will simply result in the BATFE renewing its interest in moving pistol braces under NFA Restrictions. For many people, the BATFE Notice that went out in December of 2020 in regard to a possible change in their position on privately owned braced pistols was a real wake-up call. Fundamentally, the ATF was, and probably still is, contemplating a change in enforcement of existing regulations that would essential subject private owners to the same scrutiny as manufacturers who have been selling braced pistols as complete firearms. Originally, braces were only sold as aftermarket accessories. After some back and forth about their legality and their use… and whether or not the latter affected the former… ATF basically took the position that they were not going to get into the details of how a private gun owner used a brace. So long as it was manufactured in a way that it could be used to stabilize a pistol while shooting one-handed, with the pistol extended from the body as any other pistol would be. The requirements included that the brace itself could be strapped to the shooter’s arm as a clear indication that the design intent was within the intended parameters. If this already seems confusing: It is. GunWebsites recently created a timeline of the convoluted history of non-NFA Pistol Braces HERE.
Pistol Brace History by Minuteman University, All Rights Reserved by MU
The Gun Community Needs Clarity… At Least If We’re Not Going To Be Left Alone.
When the ATF announced its intention, it opened a period for public comment on the proposal. Ultimately, the proposal was officially rescinded, but not before tens of thousands of public comments were submitted. One has to assume the something approaching 100% of them were in opposition. I submitted one, which you can read below:
I am opposed to the proposed increased scrutiny and regulation of Stabilizing Pistol Braces, as described in the Notice published on 12/18/2020 by the BATFE. I have been active in the firearms community as a gun owner, shooter, hunter, and/or an armed professional for over three decades and worked in the firearms industry since 1997. I am an educator, author, and business owner. In addition to my primary vocation as an instructor, I have an FFL (07) and SOT. I own several pistols equipped with Stabilizing Braces, I do not own “short-barreled rifles” (SBR)… though I have been issued them as a law enforcement officer and understand the value that the configuration offers. Pistols equipped with Stabilizing Braces are not the equivalent of SBRs and should not be treated as such, regardless of what other accessories are attached to the said firearm or how they are configured.
Determining whether or not an individual has configured a firearm with a Stabilizing Brace solely to circumvent registration of an SBR under the NFA is an inherently subjective endeavor and will not be changed by describing various objective aspects of a firearm. Regardless, there are several arguments against implementing the proposed guidelines:
- Hundreds of thousands of gun owners have responsibly used braces for many years now, proving they don’t need special regulation. If it is the position of the BATFE that a significant number of them have actually built SBRs, it makes more sense to consider de-regulating SBRs, given the lack of negative impact braced pistols have had. There is no data that suggests an increase in criminal activity or firearms negligence tied to Stabilizing Braces. I put out a video with my thoughts on last month’s ATF Proposal right away. I am an owner, user and advocate of Braced Pistols.
- Subjective application of the proposed guidelines will inevitably lead to well-intentioned gun owners becoming felons. We are approaching a full decade of confusing, often contradicting, information from the BATFE and within the gun community in regard to the legal ownership and use of Stabilizing Braces on pistols. Many gun owners were relieved by the perception that the BATFE had backed away from any position of increased regulation in regard to stabilizing braces and their use. The mere proposal of increased regulation over the past week has caused massive disruption to the firearms industry over an issue that should require no further discussion.
- While waiving the $200 Tax on SBR Registration may be intended as a gesture of goodwill, it doesn’t overcome the burden of additional issues that come with NFA Item Ownership, nor does it address the issue of SBRs being prohibited in some States. Pistol Brace owners in States that do not allow private ownership of firearms designated as “Short Barreled Rifles” will be deprived of private property without compensation under the proposal. For those gun owners who do have the option of legally owning “short-barreled rifles” in their States, there will still be burdensome issues related to local law enforcement notification/approval, storage, and travel with their firearm created by this proposal.
- Stabilizing Braces, as currently owned and used, have created jobs and inspired innovation in the firearms industry. Unnecessary regulation will affect those jobs and deter future innovation. At a time in our country where there is still massive unemployment and increasing concern over financial security, any action against a vibrant industry that continues to grow should be avoided if possible.
- Stabilizing Braces, as currently owned and used, have increased responsible firearms use and made it possible for more people to use firearms in a safe and controlled way over a wider variety of circumstances. Congruent with the original design intent of these devices, many people of all varieties of ages, sizes, and physical abilities are able to use braced pistols in a variety of ways to improve their control and safe use of firearms. This may include using the brace itself against the shooter’s body to support the weight and recoil of the firearm. It is hard to understand how any use of these devices that decreases the chance of a loss of control of a firearm by any shooter could be considered a negative, much less a felony.
- The vast majority of stabilizing braces are attached to firearms that have been purchased through Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers, involving a background check and already creating a paper trail to their owners. The brace itself is not a firearm nor an NFA Item, it is wholly inappropriate and unnecessary to use it to require gun owners to register their otherwise legally owned non-NFA pistol.
Thank you for considering these points and those raised by my fellow American Gun Owners,
Executive Vice President, Second Amendment Organization”
In addition to filing that comment, I also did a live video on the topic. In the video, I acknowledged that I understood the “logic” of the position that the ATF wants to take: If your firearm is set up for two-handed use, just like a rifle would be used, but equipped with a brace instead of a stock, they claim that you appear to be circumventing the NFA rules in regard to having an unregistered Short Barreled Rifle. Of course, there are a couple of problems with bringing that up after years of private individuals configuring their firearms in such a way:
- It is entirely inappropriate to assume that because a braced pistol has other accessories that are configured for use with two hands, that the firearm is configured purposeful to evade compliance with any law. One could argue that most of the braces themselves are designed in a way so that they must be attached to the shooter using more than one hand to begin with. The idea that the only legitimate users of braces on pistols are amputees is inaccurate.
- As pointed out in my official public statement: If the ATF’s position is that a significant number of the hundreds of thousands [if not millions] of pistol braces in private hands are currently attached to de facto SBRs, then there is apparently no reason to be worried about SBRs. There has been no indication that these devices, now obviously in common use, have contributed to an increase in injury or violence in any way, regardless of configuration. The better argument is that NFA SBR Restrictions should be rescinded, as they are an unjustified infringement of our rights in violation of the Second Amendment.
The Struggle Over The Pistol Brace Continues…
This is not the first time that we have addressed the issue of the ATF possibly setting up American Gun Owners.
Or at least not seeing that they have contributed to a potential problem, in regard to pistol braces. This article, from just over 2 years ago, addresses some of the same issues that were brought up again this past December. Personally, I am an owner, user, and advocate of braced pistols, particularly Braced AR Pistols. Several years ago, amidst an earlier ATF back & forth over their legality, the release of PDN Training DVD covering AR Pistols was held up for months after we had produced thousands of copies. We did release the DVD eventually and I have since published several pieces of content on the topic, including a Live Video where I explain why I really don’t think of them as a “gimmick”.
One area that I did not address in my letter to the BATFE in December, but deserves attention, is the issue of how restricting them disproportionately impacts those with low-income levels. Currently, owning a pistol brace can mean that a single firearm can serve multiple functions. A pistol that is carried concealed for self-defense could be equipped with a brace when staged at home for defensive use, in a configuration that offers more control when the firearm does not need to be concealed. Conceivably, this same firearm might be able to used responsibly for recreational, hunting or competition in various configurations as well. A brace costs significantly less than a second firearm, particularly a rifle which could serve those purposes well.
Obviously, we are not alone in our concern over this issue. Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners of America and the NRA have all opined on the situation as well. Second Amendment Foundation, however, has taken things to another level with a recent lawsuit against the BATFE over their treatment of Pistol Braces. Their lawsuit addresses the origin of pistol braces and the intent to help people with disabilities. We hope that this lawsuit will both bring regulation clarity to the issue of pistol braces and lead to fewer restrictions on responsible American Gun Owners. We believe that the only hope we have of regaining lost rights in the near future will be through the court system and SAF is the most experienced and successful organization we have in that arena.
We do not believe, however, that the gun community should disingenuously suggest that any significant number of the braces that have been sold are being used to empower disabled shooters.
You can learn more about what SB Tactical, the foremost manufacturer of pistol braces in the US has to say in this extended interview.
Pistol braces shouldn’t be a target of restrictions because there is no connection between having more control over a firearm and increased negative outcomes. More control is better when it comes to firearms use & safety and braces & stocks offer more control to shooters in many situations. Pistol Braces are not involved in a disproportionate amount of firearms involved violence, they do not make firearms-involved suicide more likelier or easier to accomplish, they do not make it harder to prevent unauthorized access to a firearm and they aren’t connected to an increase in firearms negligence.
As always, the best way that you can get involved in the prevention of any more restrictions being put upon is by being a proud, responsible gun owner and influencing those around you through grassroots advocacy. In this case, that means using braced pistols, sharing your experiences, and reaching out to elected officials and the media to educate them about these useful accessories.
Executive Vice President, 2AO
About Rob Pincus
Rob Pincus has been educating people about defensive shooting and related personal defense topics for over two decades. He is the Executive Director of the Personal Defense Network and the owner of I.C.E. Training Company. He has authored several books, produced over 100 training DVDs, appeared on several TV & Radio shows, and trained military, law enforcement, and armed individuals around the world. His advice focuses on efficiency and practicality based on his own experiences and continuing research of both real-world events and cutting-edge training practices. www.icetraining.us