A newly published federal rule could soon make felons of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Americans and violate the U.S. Constitution. The Biden administration claims adding a pistol brace to an otherwise legal pistol suddenly transforms it into an unlawful “short-barreled rifle.”
A poorly argued DMN editorial claims the ATF’s pistol brace rule “is common sense.”
But as Albert Einstein pointed out, in many cases common sense is “nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before you reach eighteen.”
Thankfully, courts don’t just use common sense to interpret our laws—they use the Constitution. And the Constitution gives Congress—not executive agencies—the legislative power to amend laws.
The DMN calls this fundamental principle of separation of powers “
The constitutional question is why my group, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has sued the ATF on behalf of a Texas man who legally purchased a pistol brace and wishes to attach that brace to his gun and possess a pistol equipped with a stabilizing brace without being guilty of a felony. TPPF’s lawsuit seeks to affirm that the Second Amendment protects accessories commonly used with firearms.
The DMN also mysteriously claims it’s a “long-standing policy,” though the new rule—never even contemplated by Congress—was published last week.
Here’s a little background on the issue. Stabilizing braces are a common accessory that allows individuals—particularly those with disabilities—to fire a pistol accurately and safely.
Seeking to assist a friend who is a disabled veteran, Alex Bosco invented a stabilizing brace for large pistols, such as AR-15-style pistols in 2012. He was inspired to create the device after his friend had to stop shooting a large pistol at a gun range due to his lack of control over the weapon. Pistol braces proliferated as different designs were introduced and many individuals enjoyed being able to fire larger pistols more accurately and safely.
In the last decade, millions of Americans have legally purchased stabilizing braces over the past decade.
But the Biden administration’s new rule claims that installing a simple pistol brace converts an otherwise legal pistol into an unlawful “short-barreled rifle.” The ATF estimates that3-7 million stabilizing braces have been sold from 2013 to 2020, and that the Proposed Rule may affect as many as 1.4 million individuals.
The new rule effectively turns all of those purchases into criminals overnight and requires them to take steps, such as registering their pistols with the federal government and paying an exorbitant fee, in order to avoid prosecution and a potential 10-year prison sentence.
The ATF’s new rule relies on a radical reinterpretation of the 1934 National Firearms Act. This law, passed as the Prohibition gang wars raged, imposed a tax and registration requirement on firearms Congress then viewed as especially dangerous, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.
Yet expanding criminal liability and encroaching on Americans’ right to keep and bear arms has enormous political significance, meaning that if Congress wished to delegate this power, it was required to speak clearly.
Let’s close with some real common sense. The Dallas Morning News editorial expressed smug confidence in an ever-more-powerful federal government.
“In our view, the bureau whose mission is to regulate firearms has the right to regulate firearms, especially as it relates to a law that has been on the books for nearly a century,” the editorial reads.
But writing in his pamphlet “Common Sense,” Thomas Paine pointed out the obvious: “Some perhaps will say, that after we have made it up with Britain, she will protect us… Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.”
The Honorable Robert Henneke is Executive Director and General Counsel of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.