A new ATF ruling may turn as many as 40 MILLION Americans into felons. The rule, which concerns firearm pistol braces, doesn’t leave law-abiding gun owners with many options to obey: Either destroy the firearm, turn it in, or apply for a tax stamp that likely would take years to receive — within the next 120 days. Stephen Stamboulieh, Attorney for Gun Owners of America, joins Glenn to explain exactly what’s going on at the ATF, how YOU might avoid felony charges if affected, and specifically what it is about this new ruling makes him ‘wholly uncomfortable.’
TranscriptBelow is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: We have Stephen Stamboulieh, on the phone with us. Stephen, welcome to the program. How are you, sir?
STEPHEN: I'm doing well. It's an honor to talk to you, Glenn, and even Stu.
STU: Wow. Wow.
GLENN: And even Stu.
STU: Don't lower yourself, Stephen. It's terrible.
GLENN: I've lost so much respect for you already. Hey, I watched your YouTube show, I think it was from the shot show last week.
GLENN: And I am trying to even understand what is going on, with the pistol brace rule. Because this could make 40 million Americans felons.
GLENN: Has -- has this -- is this -- is this in effect now, as the clock started to tick. Where are we on this?
STEPHEN: Okay. So on Friday the 13th, they put out this final rule. But did not publish it in the Federal Register. I got back late Friday night.
I have not even checked the Federal Register, to see if it's, quote, published in the Federal Register.
But publishing it in the Federal Register, starts the clock ticking for you to do the things you need to do, to either remain compliant with the law.
Or their new law, that they just created.
Because, well, they hate all of us. Or, you know, turn in your rifle. Your pistol, whatever.
Or just ignore it, and become a felon. And go spend some time.
Okay. So it could have started? We don't know yet. We can find out.
Can you see -- how do you check the Federal Register? I don't even -- how do you do that? Can the average person do that?
STEPHEN: Yeah. And that's exactly what they say. Is the average person has -- their -- their -- I can't even remember the exact language. But once it's published in the Federal Register, everyone is just deemed to be on notice, that it's been published on the Federal Register. And have knowledge of what's in the Federal Register. Even though most people don't have this masochistic streak, where they want to punish themselves by reading thousands of pages of bureaucratic regulations.
STU: I'm just about -- I'm on the page to search for it.
And there's 908,512 documents, which surely, I know everything that is in those documents.
GLENN: Well, you would if you were responsible and you check it every morning, like I do.
So what do you search for in this? Do you just search for, you know, bad guns?
STU: Evil gun.
GLENN: The -- the stabilizing braces?
STEPHEN: Stabilizing braces, correct.
GLENN: Okay. Look for stabilizing braces. Okay.
So once this has been published, we have 120 days to either get rid of the gun. Let me actually read this to you. This was the way it was pushed today.
Let's see, that you can get rid of the brace. Destroy -- get the tax stamp. Which is impossible. And you can explain that later. At least in time to comply.
Or destroy the pistol brace. Or you can -- or you can turn your if one into the ATF. I don't even know where the ATF is. Or you can go to prison.
So can we destroy the pistol brace?
STEPHEN: So they say that you can destroy the pistol brace. And the ATF has various methods of how you're supposed to destroy it. I mean, the easiest thing would be to crush it up. Throw it away, right?
But, yeah. That is one of your options. You can absolutely destroy your firearm, if you're so inclined to do. And you can 100 percent turn in your firearms to the ATF. I'm sure they would appreciate free guns.
GLENN: Oh, free guns. Last thing.
STEPHEN: Right. Well, for them. Right. The other thing they tell us to do, is since they're so kind. And so gracious. They're going to allow us this one time opportunity to get a free tax stamp. And, Glenn, you spoke about how hard it was to get a tax stamp. You know, you're looking at over -- over a year wait.
I mean, it's like a year wait right now. Before they want to add --
GLENN: 40 million. Right.
STEPHEN: Right. And if you take the ATF number, it's 3 million. If you take congressional research services, you know, bipartisan. They say up to 40 million.
Let's go with 40 million, right? Or anywhere in between, it doesn't matter. They're going to over -- just completely inundate the system with people trying to comply, right?
Because most citizens want to comply with the law, so they don't get their door kicked in. Their dog shot. And their gun seized. So, yeah. It's not going to happen within a year. I mean, maybe two years.
GLENN: Maybe. And you are a felon, if you have it, in those two years. Correct?
Even if they apply.
STEPHEN: So the way they say this. And this is what gives me so much heartburn over this. They're saying, we were wrong when we told you over and over and over again, that a braced pistol is not a short-barreled rifle.
It's always been a short-barreled rifle. We just said the wrong thing. And it's our bad, sorry.
So you're a felon if you have it now. But since we're such nice people. If you go through the process of registering it, right?
So you go and you do your E form one, or your paper form. Whatever. And you submit this to the ETF, along with your photographs and your fingerprints. Your address. And a picture of a firearm.
We will deem you to be in compliance, even though you have a short-barreled rifle. Because you've said it's a short barreled rifle.
Because they said it's a short-barreled rifle, and you don't have a tax stamp for it.
You are for saying in violation of the law.
But they're going to use their enforcement discretion to not come after you, assuming you do the things they tell you to do.
GLENN: Well, the ATF has also warned, reading from the article.
Americans with Pistol Braces are likely already violating the National Firearms Act by possessing an unregistered rifle with a barrel less than 16 inches.
To they're -- they're already saying, yeah. Even if you're doing all this, you're probably already a felon. This is madness.
STEPHEN: You're already committing the crime. You've committed the crime, by having, with their new definition, a brace pistol that fits into one of their multiple subjective criteria. You are committing the felony now.
And that's why they use enforcement discretion. Because you only use enforcement discretion, if you're violating the law. There's no need to use enforcement discretion, if you're not in violation of any law.
Because there's nothing to enforce.
GLENN: So let me -- so what do we do?
Because I don't think -- I mean, this can't pass a test in the courts.
I mean, it would maybe in California or New York.
But it's not going to -- even the ninth circuit, would probably even overturn this. Do we have time -- what do you do? Do you just sit here and wait it out?
STEPHEN: You know, that's a good question. What do you do? I'm wholly uncomfortable admitting to the ATF, that I have committed a felony, even though they said, they're not going to prosecute me. And their enforcement discretion. Because that changes. You've seen from almost everything the ATF does. They constantly change their minds. Along at the bump stocks. Look at the 80 percent lowers. Now look at the pistol brace. They have a demonstrable history of being wrong, and changing their mind on everything. So what's to stop them from changing their mind on enforcement discretion or saying, well, Mr. Beck, you just didn't do it good enough, and now we're going to prosecute you.
So, I mean, to answer your question, what did you do?
I mean, there's going to be some organization that will be suing them on this. Pretty soon.
GLENN: Okay. I can't imagine what that organization would be. But...
STEPHEN: Right. Right. It's a secret to everybody.
GLENN: Yeah. It wouldn't be the gun owners of America, I'll tell you that right now.
Okay. So some organization is going to be suing them.
And how is that -- how long is that going to take?
STEPHEN: Well, it depends on -- on -- on -- oh, gosh.
So many different things.
You know, we would -- the organization would absolutely seek a temporary restraining order in a preliminary injunction throughout the litigation. Right?
So if that organization could get the rule held in, you know, abeyance law.
The court is deciding whether or not, the ATF can willy-nilly change its mind on everything.
Within 120 days, we would expect to have some kind of answer.
And 120 days is plenty enough time for the court to decide, whether or not to hold -- hold a rule, and, you know, just enjoying it, pending litigation.
I mean, it's plenty of time for them to do that.
STEPHEN: And it gives them 120 days. And it gives you lots of opportunity, in case they go against you. Can you give -- like, for instance, I live in two different counties. And I love my sheriffs.
And, you know, until this thing is worked out. Can I just go to my sheriff and say, here take this.
You can use this.
If it turns out to be a felony to own it, you guys take it. And you guys use it.
But I -- I don't want to possess it.
Because I am -- I would be the perfect target. You know what I mean?
They're not going to throw 40 million people in prison. But they will throw maybe a couple of hundred.
And that will teach everyone else. You can do this to them. We're coming for you.
STEPHEN: Right. You can absolutely turn it into your sheriff for, quote, safekeeping. While you're paying attention to what we're doing in the courts, to see if we're successful in the courts. I don't know why we wouldn't be.
I mean, this is just so --
STEPHEN: It's like the definition of arbitrary and capricious. If you open up a dictionary, it would have a picture of the ATF right there.
GLENN: Yeah. But you would also have -- if this passes, then they can say, all semiautomatics.
I mean, Joe Biden is already saying, semiautomatic handguns are a problem. There's no use for them. That's every gun sold, unless you're buying an old western gun.
STEPHEN: Right. And that's funny that you say that. It just jogged my memory. I think it was the Sixth Circuit GOA bump stock case, the senior deputy counsel for DOJ could not answer whether or not all semiautomatic firearms were machine guns. Like all AR-15s.
GLENN: Right. Right.
STEPHEN: When the court asked him, h's like, I'm not prepared to answer them. And I thought, well, by God, that's a really easy question. No. The answer is no.
GLENN: Right. Right. But if you don't answer it now, you can answer it when you do it in a rule.
I mean, is this the first time that you've seen something that hasn't had a grandfather clause in it?
STEPHEN: No. Because look at bump stocks, right? After Trump directed the DOJ and the ATF to basically strike bump stocks with a pen. You know, all of them, turn them in. Mr. and Mrs. America. You're now felons.
And you've always -- this bump stock. Even though we said, prior to this, it was legal. One hundred percent legal, not a machine gun.
I know this is a common theme with the ATF.
We were wrong. And they are actually machine guns, and we are going to use our enforcement discretion, not to come after you.
However, you can't register them, because 18 USC 9220 does not allow you to have new machine guns, just prior to 1986 machine guns.
GLENN: Okay. So --
STEPHEN: You can still own a machine gun.
GLENN: Does the fact that that wasn't challenged, or did it lose --
STU: Can we say the fact that Republicans have rolled over as Trump did this and said nothing about it.
GLENN: Right. Does that hurt us on this now?
STU: Now there's more precedent for it.
GLENN: Well, what's great about the bump stock stuff, is in the Sixth Circuit, GOA 1 at the panel.
At like the three-judge panel stage, and basically, the court really just called out the ATF. And said, you can't do this. And then when -- basically, the full court. They evenly split, and an even split say bad thing. If you lose in the trial court.
Because what it does, is it affirms the trial court ruling, because the -- the court couldn't free on how it was. However, a Fifth Circuit came in for the win a couple weeks ago in the cargo case.
And basically, involved 13-3, told the ATF, bump stocks are not machine guns.
So, you know -- you know, your move to ATF.
So the circuits are split on that because all of the different circuits can't agree. And what does that do?
It sets you up for the perfect Supreme Court case.
Because you can't have Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, apply one federal law one way, and then the other states applying it a different way.
So the Supreme Court is going to have to step in and resolve that circuit split. Because that's a pretty big deal.
STU: Of course, all these companies that are making these things are now out of business. Right?
You know, three years down the line.
Yeah. It's like -- this is the process, which is the punishment half the time.
GLENN: So we've been talking about Stephen Stamboulieh. And he's with the Gun Owners of America.
You can follow all of the information at gunowners.org. Gunowners.org. Or you can follow Stephen on his Twitter handle @Stambo2A. I like -- Stambo2A.
Stephen, thank you so much, I appreciate it. We'll talk to you again.
STEPHEN: Yes, sir. Take care.
GLENN: You bet. Buh-bye.