ATF is at it again in their latest determination later. Previously, I discussed their determination in relation to the sample that Black Aces Tactical submitted and hinted that ATF might be shifting its view on stabilizing braces.
In the newest letter addressed to Martin Ewer, the Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch (FTISB) examined a device called the Blade AR Pistol Stabilizer (“Stabilizer”). The device itself incorporates a flexible stabilizing “fin” which is designed for the user to rest on the inside of their forearm when shooting the pistol. The “fin” stabilizes any lateral movement the user may experience without the device.
The letter notes that the literature included with the sample states the Stabilizer is not designed nor intended to enable a user to fire a weapon from the shoulder (Page 1 of the letter). FTISB correctly finds that attaching the Stabilizer does not turn the pistol into a “firearm” as defined by NFA, but then states “provided the Blade AR Pistol Stabilizer is used as originally designed and NOT as a shoulder stock.” (Emphasis added).
The issue with FTISB’s latest determination is they are attempting to classify a firearm based on the end users use of an attachment designed and intended to be used in a certain way. A rifle is defined by the Gun Control Act of 1968 as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder…” (Emphasis added). While a short barreled rifle is defined as “a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length…” (Emphasis added).
The letter to FTISB stated that the device was not designed OR intended to enable a user to fire a weapon from the shoulder. So how does FTISB come to the conclusion that an end user shouldering the Stabilizer turns the firearm into an item regulated by NFA? If the device is not designed or intended to enable a user to fire a weapon from the shoulder then it would seem like a natural progression of logic that affixing the device to an AR Pistol would not satisfy the statutory requirements of being a rifle. And if the firearm in question isn’t a rifle, it couldn’t possibly become a short barreled rifle. Even if an end user used the device in a manner inconsistent with its intended purpose, that doesn’t mean that the person created a rifle. Using this twisted logic, wrapping paracord around a pistol buffer tube and shouldering it would transform an AR pistol into a firearm regulated by NFA because it wasn’t being used as “originally designed”.
Referring back to a letter written by the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) in March of 2014, FTB stated that “FTB classifies weapons based on their physical characteristics. While usage/functionality of the weapon does influence the intended design, it is not the sole criteria for determining the classification of the weapon….FTB previously determined…that the 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…Using such an accessory improperly would not change the classification of the weapon per Federal law…” (Emphasis added).
Allow me to pose this hypothetical to you using the logic in this latest determination letter. If an individual attaches the Stabilizer to his AR pistol, goes to the range, shoots it as the manufacturer intended and then hands it to his friend who shoulders it, did it just become an illegal short barreled rifle? Given what FTISB put in their determination letter it would seem that way. This begs the question, is ATF actually classifying the firearm based on what it is or how it MIGHT be used?
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