April 08, 2021
It should be no surprise that the nation’s executive branch is taking unilateral action against firearms. After all, gun control was at the core of President Biden’s campaign. Unlike candidates in the past who made vague statements on the topic, he didn’t hide from his desire to ban and regulate firearms. He ran on that message. Now, we see the first tangible signs of what his administration’s gun control policies will look like. Though we know that Biden would love to sign legislation banning millions of semi-automatics firearms and their magazines, this time he will use his pen for a different purpose. On April 7, 2021, the White House released a fact sheet on “Initial Actions to Address the Gun Violence Public Health Epidemic.” In simple English: Gun control via executive order.
The first executive order relates to so-called “ghost guns,” which are firearms made or finished by individuals, not manufacturing firms, and commonly are not serialized for cataloging or identification purposes. Many of these firearms are built from commercially available 80% receivers, which can be finished and assembled into a complete firearm by a skilled end user. According to the fact sheet, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will issue a proposed rule to “stop the proliferation of these firearms” within 30 days. We won’t know the specifics of the rule until it is issued, but we can assume that it will regulate or ban the production, possession or sale of firearms that are not issued a serial number and sold through a licensed dealer.
The second order addresses a topic familiar to anyone who has been following this issue: Within 60 days, DOJ will issue a proposed rule that will require firearms equipped with “pistol stabilizing braces” to be registered as Short-Barreled Rifles (SBRs) subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. A similar rule was published and then inexplicably withdrawn in December 2020. We can expect the new proposed rule to mirror the previous effort.
There has been a confusing history on this issue, with ATF issuing letters on the topics of braces that contradicted previous letters and guidelines. In the 2020 proposed rule, ATF laid out the “Objective Factors” that would have determined whether or not a brace-equipped pistol would be considered a short-barreled rifle. Those factors were: type and caliber, weight and length, length of pull, attachment method, stabilizing brace design features, aim point, secondary grip, sights and scopes and peripheral accessories. The notice went on to state that “No single factor or combination of factors is necessarily dispositive, and FATD examines each weapon holistically on a case-by-case basis.” So, is your pistol now an SBR? That determination is up to an unelected bureaucrat.
Unlike the bump stock ruling, which gave Americans no legal method of retaining their property, December’s notice laid out a plan, “ATF understands that most individuals who acquired affected stabilizer-equipped firearms did so in good-faith reliance on representations, made by those selling the stabilizing braces or the firearms, that those firearms were not subject to the NFA.” Consequently, the agency proposed establishing a program whereby individuals could register their brace-equipped firearm as an SBR. The program would have included expedited processing according to the notice, and a waiver for the $200-per-registration NFA tax.
The final order directs DOJ to publish “model red flag” legislation for states to adopt. Sure, the administration would like to push a red flag confiscation law through Congress, but they have so far been unsuccessful. The administration also seeks to “incentivize” states who implement the model laws, no doubt dangling federal dollars in front of state legislatures to achieve its policy goals.
There is one final piece of this story. The President will nominate David Chipman as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). CNN describes the nominee as “a fierce advocate for gun control,” and his resume backs that up. Chipman, a retired ATF agent, has most recently worked for two prominent gun control groups. After leaving ATF in 2012, Chipman served as a senior advisor and senior vice president of public safety solutions at Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety. In those roles, he was essentially the architect of the anti-gun proposals that we have seen in recent years. In 2016 Chipman became a senior policy advisor at the Giffords Law Center, another gun control group.
These executive actions were not unexpected, but nonetheless point to an erosion of civil liberties. This is the beginning of the next battle for our Second Amendment rights, not the end. We can expect more executive actions down the road as the administration continues to push the Democrat-controlled Congress to enact additional gun control laws. Stay tuned to gunsandammo.com and we will keep you updated on the latest news.
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