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Second Amendment Activists, Congressmen, See More at Stake Than Braces

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R. G. Jones
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Second Amendment Activists, Congressmen, See More at Stake Than Braces

Bill to legalize short-barreled rifles meant to keep ATF, others in check
By Michael Clements
February 7, 2023Updated: February 7, 2023



Within days of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) issuing its regulation for pistol braces, a senator from Kansas has reintroduced a bill to protect the legal status of firearms and rein in some of the ATF’s power.

“The SHORT Act will protect Americans from the anti-Second Amendment gun registry that the ATF is abusing the National Firearms Act to create,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) wrote in a statement announcing his bill, the Stop Harassing Owners of Rifles Today Act (SHORT Act).

The Act would remove short-barreled rifles (SBR), short-barreled shotguns (SBS), and “all other weapons (AOW) from the National Firearms Act (NFA). Enforcement of the NFA is one of ATF’s chief responsibilities. The NFA defines an SBR as a rifle with an overall length shorter than 26 inches or a barrel less than 16 inches in length.

The NFA was written in 1934 and specifically mentioned SBRs and SBSs as favorites of gangsters because they were easy to conceal. The ATF claims that some pistol braces were marketed as ways to shoulder large format pistols. According to the ATF, this turns the pistol into an illegal weapon under the NFA.

Epoch Times Photo
A pistol stabilizing brace is seen in this undated photo. (Michael Clements)

Tim Harmsen is an Indiana gun store owner and YouTube host of his Military Arms Channel, which boasts more than 1.3 million subscribers. Harmsen has been in the firearms business more than 30 years and is deeply invested in the debate over pistol braces.

He said the braces are some of the most popular items in his store. According to Harmsen, the NFA was bad law when it was written and needs to be done away with. He called the SHORT Act “a step in the right direction.”

“In my 30-plus years of shooting, I’ve never seen a SBR small enough to fit in a pocket. This highlights the absurdity of the NFA and why we want it abolished,” Harmsen wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

Marshall wrote the bill in response to the ATF rule on whether the addition of a stabilizing pistol brace converts a large-format pistol into an SBR because it enables the shooter the fire the gun from the shoulder. According to Marshall, the ATF is less interested in safety than controlling behavior.

An AR-15 style rifle
An AR-15 style rifle is displayed at the Firing-Line indoor range and gun shop, in Aurora, Colo., on July 26, 2012. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Congressman Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) is sponsoring a companion bill in the House. In a statement announcing the bill’s reintroduction, Clyde said it is past time for Congress to act.

“In the face of President Biden’s unconstitutional tactics and backdoor gun control, the SHORT Act provides a permanent solution to combat the unlawful pistol brace rule and protect Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Clyde wrote.

Marshall reintroduced the bill with Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). In the same statement, Kennedy harkened back to the pistol brace’s intended use.

“A brace that countless disabled Americans use to exercise their Second Amendment rights should not be regulated by unelected anti-gun bureaucrats, and this bill would force the Biden ATF to stop devising new restrictions for legal firearms,” Kennedy wrote.

The bill has 17 co-sponsors.

Marshall and other Second Amendment proponents said the ATF’s true intent is to build a registry of gun owners. Many of the co-sponsors and Clyde’s colleagues in the House agree. Clyde said on the House floor, “Registration always leads to confiscation.”

Act Would Destroy Records

According to Marshall, the SHORT Act also requires the ATF to destroy all records of the “registration, transfer, or manufacture of these NFA firearms.”

Rogers’s bill is just one factor in the effort by Second Amendment supporters to stop the ATF. Before the new rule was made public, the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, the Firearms Policy Center, and the Second Amendment Foundation sued or said they were preparing litigation over the rule.

The organizations have the same objections to the ATF rule that Marhsall lists in the SHORT Act.

Generally speaking, they are asking the courts to put the rule on hold until they can make their cases against the regulation, at which time, they hope the courts will scrap the rule altogether.

Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the government has made him more optimistic about his lawsuit’s prospects.

According to Gottlieb, the Second Amendment Foundation has been in the fight longest, having filed one of the very first lawsuits over the pistol brace rules. He said foundation attorneys are carefully studying the most current rule so they can amend the lawsuit as needed. He said the ATF might have shot itself in the foot in that making the rule tougher may have crossed more Constitutional lines.

“I believe the challenge will be even easier because they made the rule more stringent,” Gottlieb told The Epoch Times.

Registration to Confiscation

In their filings, all the plaintiffs make it clear that the more significant issue is a federal agency where unelected officials can write regulations that carry the power of law while challenging the Constitution.

“Now, we have an administration that’s desperate to erode our Second Amendment rights in more and more pervasive ways as every year passes,” Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.) said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 31.

Harmsen agreed.

“The SHORT Act is a good start to reigning in the ATF and their continued arbitrary rule making process which many believe, including members of Congress, to be law making without an act of Congress,” he wrote.


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