WASHINGTON, D.C. –-(Ammoland.com)- A new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Gun Owners of America (GOA) shows that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) might have changed the wording on the proposed rule on pistol stabilizing braces to make it less clear on purpose.
GOA’s FOIA request [embeded below] turned up an email by ATF counsel James Vann (not named in the FOIA results, but AmmoLand News verified Mr. Vann sent the email) dated April 24, 2021. This time frame was when the ATF was drafting up the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). Mr. Vann was sending “the language for any prior classifications,” which GOA and AmmoLand News believe was for inclusion in the NPRM.
The language reads: “To the extent that any prior classification of either a “stabilizing brace” or a firearm equipped with a ‘stabilizing brace’ does not comport with a determination when using Worksheet 4999, that classification is hereby rescinded.”
The NPRM makes the resubmittal for a new letter sound like a suggestion. The FOIA shows something different. ATF was specifically contemplating that the NPRM was reversing classification letters, but instead of using the language that Mr. Vann submitted for the NPRM, the ATF said manufacturers could submit a sample to the ATF to get a new letter.
The ATF seems to be hiding the fact that the Bureau was adopting a new procedure for pistol stabilizing braces.
The NPRM reads: “any maker or manufacturer who has received a classification prior to the effective date of the rule is encouraged to resubmit the firearm with the attached “stabilizing brace” to ensure that the prior classification is consistent with this new rule….”
GOA’s faulted ATF for failing to acknowledge they were adopting a new procedure for pistol stabilizing braces. The ATF also did not explain the new procedures for the devices in the NPRM. But the response to the FOIA seems to show that the ATF knew they were changing the rules but intentionally decided not to inform the industry or the general public.
The NPRM reads: “FATD’s classifications of a particular firearm allow industry members to plan, develop, and distribute products in compliance with the law, thereby reducing their risk of incurring criminal or civil penalties, or the potential for costly corrective actions, including a possible recall by the manufacturer.”
The NPRM leaves the ATF room to revoke all prior opinion letters, just like Mr. Vann’s email spelled out in his email. By not using clear and concise language, it gives the ATF deference to apply the new rules any way they choose. It will put the firearms industry and the American gun owner at a disadvantage when trying to comply with the new regulations. Gun rights advocates worry that was the purpose of changing Vann’s language that he wanted to be used in the NPRM.
The NPRM reads: “The purpose of this proposed rule is to amend ATF regulations to clarify…”
But the ATF left the rule intentionally vague. The ATF has refused to say anything specific about the status of past classifications. If Vann’s email is any indication, the old letters might not be worth anything, and all manufacturers might be forced to get new opinion letters from the ATF.
The ATF is expected to release the new rule by the end of January.
FOIA Response Email by ATF Counsel James Vann 11-30-21
GOA Comments Opposing Docket No. ATF 2021R-08 Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces
Stabilizing Brace Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 2021-12176
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.