Flipping a coin with the ATF
We are conditioned to think - if we think about such things at all - that the laws of our land are passed by, well, lawmakers. But reality is, many of the rules which govern (and can ruin) our lives are developed by regulatory agencies, empowered by our lawmakers to do what they think is best as experts in their given area.
I could add a lot of words here but I set out to put these stories into plain English, in the hopes that normal, everyday citizens would have a clearer understanding of what we're all facing. So that's what I'll do.
Our regulatory agencies are a mess and are turning "normal, everyday citizens" into criminals through bad advice, changing directives, and flat-out deliberate abuse. Here are some recent and fairly well-publicized examples:
- We are all aware of Lois Lerner's use of her IRS division to hinder, harass, and punish individuals and groups opposed to the policies of the current administration;
- When dragged into the spotlight, the IRS simply refused to provide evidence and, when pressed, either destroyed data demanded by Congress or lied about having destroyed it;
- The Department of Justice, also known for targeting those who oppose the current administration, has not investigated the matter, despite having some of their own attorneys call the IRS' story "malarkey" on national television;
- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently attempting to steal over 90,000 acres from a Texas rancher Tom Henderson by declaring this his property - which his family has owned outright, ranched and paid taxes on for over a century - is really in Oklahoma, where it would be considered "public land" and therefore under BLM management.
There are countless other examples as well but, rather than dwell on the past, I want to bring your attention to something that is developing right now. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE or ATF) could easily be the poster child for regulatory abuse ending in citizen incarceration - or death - and they don't seem able or willing to learn, much less reform.
We already mentioned that they are being sued for issuing approval for certain citizens to build machineguns and then arbitrarily reversing that decision (a determination that led to the forced confiscation of a citizen's firearm under threat of Federal charges for illegally building one). Now, despite having two suits filed over this borderline entrapment, they've again contradicted themselves in terms of what constitutes a "short-barreled rifle," possession of which without approval can also lead to fines and Federal prison time.
Even if you are not a "gun person," I'd like you to follow along simply to see who badly things can go sideways for someone as law-abiding as you who is one. The short, plainspeak version is this:
- The AR-15 style of rifle can also be had in pistol configuration. It looks like the rifle but has a much short barrel and no stock, although is has a tube (the "buffer tube," required for the mechanical operation) that sticks out of the back.
- A "short-barreled rifle (SBR)," in the case of an AR-15, is a rifle with a shoulder stock and a barrel shorter than 16".
- If you put a pistol barrel on the upper half of an AR-15 rifle, you have created an SBR and must first have ATF approval.
- If you put a rifle stock on an AR-15 pistol's buffer tube, you have created an SBR and must first have ATF approval.
- A company called SIG created a wrist brace, designed to slide onto the buffer tube of an AR-15 pistol and add stability in aiming it. It looks very much like a stock, so the company wrote the ATF for guidance.
- The ATF consulted with their technical experts and approved the brace as-is, saying it would NOT constitute creation of an SBR. Further, if an owner of this brace used it like a shoulder stock instead of for its intended purpose, it STILL would NOT constitute the making of an SBR.
- On March 5 of this year, they confirmed this again in writing to a police sergeant who inquired to ensure he was obeying the law if he fired his brace-equipped pistol from his shoulder. The letter included this statement: "[W]e have determined that firing a pistol from the shoulder would NOT cause the pistol to be reclassified as an SBR.... Generally speaking, we DO NOT classify weapons based on how an individual uses a weapon."
- On November 10th of this year, they changed their mind. In a written response to a different citizen making the same inquiry, the ATF stated (page 2): "[T]he attachment of the SB-15 brace to an AR-type pistol alone would not change the classification of the pistol to an SBR. However, if this device, un-modified or modified; is assembled to a pistol and used as a shoulder stock, thus designing or redesigning or making or remaking of a weapon designed to be fired from the shoulder; this assembly would constitute making of a 'rifle' as defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(7)." Hopefully someone passed that information on to the police sergeant.
Now close your eyes for a second and picture this scenario.
You are a lawful gun owner. You legally buy an AR-style pistol and a SIG brace. You fire the gun as a pistol and are legal. You then rest the back of the brace against your shoulder to hold your aim a little more steadily Are you committing a Federal offense and subject to prison time, loss of gun and voting rights, and thousands of dollars in fines? Apparently, in March, the answer was no. In November, the answer appeared to be yes. Today...?
Good question, isn't it?
This needs to stop.
Open your eyes.