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BATFE reverses decision about pistol braces constituting a redesign.

With the controversy in the past of the pistol brace constituting a redesign into a SBR, the BATFE issues a new decision letter in 2017 that changes that opinion, again.

72 hours before SHOT Show 2015 the BATFE released an open letter that determined the shouldering of a pistol brace encompassed a "redesign" of a firearm, which could put it under the jurisdiction of the National Firearms Act (NFA). The letter read in part;These items are intended to improve accuracy by using the operator’s forearm to provide stable support for the AR-type pistol. ATF has previously determined that attaching the brace to a firearm does not alter the classification of the firearm or subject the firearm to National Firearms Act (NFA) control. However, this classification is based upon the use of the device as designed.When the device is redesigned for use as a shoulder stock on a handgun with a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length, the firearm is properly classified as a firearm under the NFA. The pistol stabilizing brace was neither “designed” nor approved to be used as a shoulder stock, and therefore use as a shoulder stock constitutes a “redesign” of the device because a possessor has changed the very function of the item. Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked…Any person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol (having a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a smooth bore firearm with a barrel under 18 inches in length) must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the NFA.This letter being a reversal to previous the determination in this matter caused an uproar in the firearms community. The previous determination in 2014 included in part;Firing of a weapon from a particular position, such as placing the receiver extension of an AR-15 type pistol on the user’s shoulder, does not change the classification of a weapon…. Further, certain firearm accessories such as the SIG stability brace have not been classified by the FTB as shoulder stocks and, therefore, using the brace improperly does not constitute a design change. With the latest determination letter being the one that's considered the current legal interpretation this meant that in 2014 it was legal to shoulder a pistol brace, but in 2015 it was not. Somehow shouldering the brace magically constituted a redesign into a SBR as of 2015, but in 2014 it didn't. Makes sense so far, right? Don't worry, the rest of the world would agree with you, it made no sense at all.

Which brings us to today which has the BATFE releases yet another decision letter, reversing the reversal.... of the reversal. In January 2017 Mark Barnes, the outside council of SB Tactical, sent a letter to the acting director of the BATFE Thomas Brandon asking for a reconsideration to the 2015 decision letter. In the new 2017 letter we can see that shooting a brace from the shoulder is no longer considered a redesign. However the letter does state that if steps are taken to configure the brace as a stock then that does constitute a redesign. Quote from the 2017 letter;
With respect to stabilizing braces, ATF has concluded that attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not “make” a short-barreled rifle because in the configuration as submitted to and approved by FATD [Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division], it is not intended to be and cannot comfortably be fired from the shoulder. If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder stock–for example, configuring the brace as to permanently affix it to the end of a buffer tube, (thereby creating a length that has no other purpose than to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearms from the shoulder using the accessory as a shoulder stock that person has objectively “redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA. This conclusion is not based upon the mere fact that the firearm was fired from the shoulder at some point. Therefore, an NFA firearm has not necessarily been made when the device is not re-configured for use as a shoulder stock – even if the attached firearm happens to be fired from the shoulder So it would seem that some form of logic is being applied in terms of NFA laws and that the mere action of something touching your body isn't considered a redesign. Logic prevailing it now appears that actually redesigning a brace into a stock, is what's considered a redesign.

This absurdity of application of logic of the day into interpretation letters, reversals of reversals of reversals, and then finally issuing a new decision that would determine actual redesigning is showing the absurdity of NFA laws. Hopefully out of all of this the next determination will be that this entire exercise was a waste of time and taxpayer money, and that NFA SBR laws should be stricken down along side the rumored Hearing Protection Act.

BATFE 2015 open letter in full; https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/open-letter/all-ffls-jan2015-open-letter-redesign-stabilizing-braces/download

2017 letter; http://2ht1mik98ka4dogie28vqc4y.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Barnes_ATF_letter.pdf