ATF Pistol Stabilizing Brace guidance, fallout
(Photo by Will Dabbs)

PSB—Fallout. Nope, that’s not the title of the latest first-person shooter video game; it’s the ominous dark cloud you see building on the horizon. PSBs (Pistol Stabilizing Brace) are an entire world that seems about to change fundamentally thanks to the ATF.

Alex Boscoe’s PSB altered most everything about the American gun scene. Boscoe originally developed this delightful device to allow disabled shooters to run rifle-caliber pistols safely one-handed. However, there have been rumblings for literally years now that the ATF was trying to exert more control over PSB-equipped firearms. Now, with the pending arrival of a liberal Presidential administration, things have reached critical mass.

Fallout From the ATF Pistol Stabilizing Brace Guidance

A recent announcement of proposed rule making portends significant new restrictions on PSB-equipped weapons. These proposed rules also imply that there will be an amnesty of sorts. Presumably this would allow owners of PSB-equipped firearms to register their guns as short-barreled rifles (SBRs) easily and without payment of the $200 tax. If this is indeed the case, much will change about gun ownership in America. I’m no psychic, but here are a few of the changes I could see coming as a result.

1. Goodbye PSB-Specific Companies

If PSB-equipped guns are indeed reclassified as SBRs, then companies making PSBs will implode. SB Tactical is one of my favorite gun companies. It changed the paradigm of American gun ownership by successfully challenging the status quo. I love those guys. However, if PSB-equipped guns suddenly and administratively become SBRs, then SB Tactical’s market is irrevocably gone overnight.

There is a precedent. I’m old enough to remember when this happened to machine gun manufacturers in 1986. On May 19, they were engaged in a legally, albeit heavily, regulated business. The next day, everything they produced was untouchable by normal American citizens.

Don’t expect Uncle Sam to care about those who lose their livelihoods because of any new regulations. He won’t. These are gun guys, not violent social justice protestors. There won’t be any verklempt celebrities weeping on national TV over their sordid plight.

2. Flooding the SBR Market

If this is indeed an amnesty allowing us to register guns as SBRs tax-free, then we will have some hard decisions to make. I own several PSBs myself. It will be tempting to sign up all those AKs and AR receivers as SBRs. It would admittedly be great fun to replace my PSBs with real-live buttstocks. However, that would absolutely flood the market with SBRs.

If that’s the case, the resale potential for those guns drops to nothing. If everybody and their grandmother suddenly has amnesty registered SBRs, then nobody is going to be willing to pay $200 to transfer one. The decision to be made will be whether to register the gun or just remove the PSB and run it as a conventional old school big-boned pistol.

3. Wait Time Increase

Current estimations have around four million PSBs in circulation. As of 2017, there were 5,203,489 firearms listed in the National Firearms Registry and Transfer Record (NFRTR). A sweeping SBR amnesty could easily bump the number of guns in the registry by 50 percent. All those new American gun owners added to a spooky government database should put a smile on Kamala Harris’ face.

The current wait time for processing a Form 4 (the ATF form used to transfer an NFA item to an individual) is seven months, as per the ATF website. One Form 4 I did a while back took a full year. Dumping another couple million guns into the NFRTR won’t do much to speed that up.

The ATF folks in Martinsburg really are working their butts off to process these things. They moved 2.6 million forms in 2016; that’s 9,731 forms each and every work day. Now we propose to add another several million guns to the registry. I don’t envy them.

Conspiracy Theories

This has been done before. In 1994 the ATF reclassified the USAS-12, Striker-12, and Streetsweeper shotguns as Destructive Devices under the NFA. I guess just because they looked scary. This seems awfully silly in light of the subsequent Saiga shotgun. Regardless, there was a tax-free amnesty covering these three models that ran from 1994 until 2001. During that time, Americans registered some 8,200 guns. A potential PSB amnesty, however, would be on an altogether different scale.

The Internet is awash with conspiracy theories. The most prevalent seems to be that the ATF has been planning this crackdown for years awaiting the advent of a suitably liberal president and his administration. Perhaps that is the case. However, the possibility of an SBR amnesty—despite the unconstitutional nature of the parent law—seems to me to be a fairly compassionate way to go about it.

There’s another angle at play here, though. The skeptic will appreciate that this move does potentially bring millions of guns and, more importantly, gun owners into a registration scheme that involves demographic data, fingerprints, and photos. There will be inevitable concerns about this sweeping registration being used as a stepping stone to gun confiscation.

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist myself. I used to work for the government. The government I worked for wasn’t competent enough to manage a proper sweeping conspiracy without botching it up. However, this is not 1994.

Final Thoughts on the ATF and Pistol Stabilizing Brace

We put-upon American gun guys grumbled at the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. However, unlike 1994 there are nearly 400 million firearms in circulation in America today; 20-30 million of those are “scary” black guns. There are 20 times as many guns in America as there are soldiers serving in every nation on the planet combined. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who tried to force American gun owners to give up their firearms.

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