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OPINION

Millions of Americans are About to Become Felons

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Most Americans are unaware that new rule from President Biden’s ATF is less than two weeks away from turning millions of our fellow citizens into felons overnight. 

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The new rule targets firearms that utilize a brace, commonly referred to as pistol braced firearms. Originally designed in 2012 to aid disabled veterans in shooting guns without assistance, these attachments quickly ballooned in popularity amongst firearms enthusiasts as a fun and interesting new way to use guns and target shoot. 

Let’s be clear, despite claims to the contrary, these braces do not enhance the rate of fire, lethality, or effectiveness of firearms in the hands of someone hellbent on taking innocent lives. While activists recite the extremely rare instance where a firearm used in a high-profile murder had one of these pieces of plastic added on, that does not mean that it emboldened or enhanced their ability to carry out their evil deed. 

So, why is this administration moving forward on this rule? The only legitimate conclusion is that this agency and administration are determined to harass law-abiding gun owners at every turn, and this particular rule would cast a wide net. The Congressional Research Service, an independent non-partisan research arm of Congress, estimates that up to 40 million of these braced weapons are in circulation today. Under this new rule, should an existing owner fail to either register their weapon, destroy it, or turn it over to the ATF, they could be subject to felony charges carrying a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. 

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Millions of Americans, our friends and neighbors, are (no pun intended) staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, all for owning a weapon that this same agency previously affirmed was perfectly legal to own. 

Once the rule was finalized at the end of January, Gun Owners of America teamed up with Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas to challenge it in Federal Court, as a major question like this is not suited for bureaucrats with the stroke of a pen. Rather, this is a question that the people’s representatives should be deciding. A similar legal challenge was launched by a coalition of other state attorneys general, and we are optimistic that the judges will agree with our assertion that the ATF went way too far.  

Still, however, Congress has a means to remedy this problem immediately. Under the Congressional Review Act, both chambers can pass a resolution of disapproval to nullify the regulation, and yes, a vote in the Senate would not be subject to the filibuster rules.  

The Republican controlled House has already cleared the resolution through committee and should vote before recessing for Memorial Day Weekend. This would force the Senate, with vulnerable Democrats in gun friendly states, to go on the record: will you vote to allow this administration to make many of your constituents felons overnight? Looking at you Senators Tester, Manchin, Sinema, Shaheen, Hassan, and King. 

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From the discussions we’ve had around the gun industry and Second Amendment community, the total number of braces registered with the agency since the grace period took effect sounds abysmal. We suspect that, despite every owner of an unregistered pistol brace soon being subject to prosecution, virtually everyone in possession of one is completely unaware of the legal jeopardy they face. This is bad policy. 

President Biden has made clear through his actions and rhetoric that guns and gun owners are no friend of his administration. This is not the first major executive action he’s pushed to go after gun owners – just look at his ban on homemade firearms - and we know it won’t be the last. These attachments don’t enhance the lethality of guns, rather they are instead suited for entertainment purposes or empowering the disabled to fire a weapon on their own. Congress must move quickly to stop this rule and send a message to the Courts that the ATF went too far. 

Erich Pratt is the Senior Vice President of Gun Owners of America, a non-profit grassroots lobbying organization representing over two million members. Follow @erichmpratt

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