The ATF recently announced a significant change in their procedures for reviewing proposed new accessories from firearms manufacturers. This change may result in a felony being inadvertently committed buy a would-be manufacturer or inventor in the process of trying to accommodate the new policy at the government agency that oversees firearms regulations, including the regulation of dealers and manufacturers, at the federal level. The crux of the change is this:
Effective immediately, any requests for a determination on how an accessory affects the classification of a firearm under the GCA or NFA must include a firearm with the accessory already installed. Except in cases of conditional import determinations, FTISB will not issue a determination on an accessory unless it is attached to the submitted firearm.
This change means that someone wanting to see approval for a Stabilizing Brace, for example, would need to install it on a pistol prior to receiving approval from the BATFE to install it on a pistol without it being considered a “short barreled rifle”, which is a felony to create without following specific procedures. It should be noted that some interested in creating a new and useful accessory for the firearms community might not have the opportunity to manufacture or own the controlled item that they might accidentally create because of which State they live in or their lack of licenses to manufacture such an item. This change will stifle product development and innovation in the firearms industry and 2AO does not support it.
Until there is a clarification on this law, 2AO advises any would-be manufacturer to move forward very carefully in testing any design themselves or creating a sample that could violate federal law. We are not the only ones in the community concerned about this issue. Adam Kraut asked the question about possible legal issues yesterday in a piece at Recoil Magazine yesterday. In the case of the pistol brace, it may be possible to attach the sample to a rifle length barreled version of the same firearm so as to avoid issues should the ATF’s technical division determine after review that the brace were actually a “stock”, but that work around will not always be an option nor are pistol braces the only item that manufacturers need the ATF to review. That said, I believe that the massive popularity of these items and the number of manufacturers interested in designed and selling them is probably what caused this change at the ATF. Pistol Braces have been a contentious and controversial issue since they first hit the market in 2013.
Is it possible that it is an intentional maneuver to set up and stifle the industry? Yes. More likely, the ATF is under staffed and overwhelmed with their tasks. They certainly seem to overwhelmed to investigate those rejected by background checks when trying to purchase firearms through licensed dealers and I’m hearing that wait times for approval to purchase NFA Items are starting to climb again.