Guidance on what constitutes “stabilizing braces” was published by the ATF on 18 December, 2020. The guidance seemed less than objective, with a “we will know it when we see it” quality.
In a dramatic reversal, the deputy director of the ATF Marvin RIchardson, signed a withdrawal of the guidance, only five days after the guidance was published. The guidance was withdrawn pending further Department of Justice review. Here is the concluding paragraph from atf.gov:
Upon further consultation with the Department of Justice and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, ATF is withdrawing, pending further Department of Justice review, the notice and request for comments entitled “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with ‘Stabilizing Braces’,” that was published on December 18, 2020. 85 FR 82516. As explained in the notice, the proposed guidance was not a regulation. The notice informed and invited comment from the industry and public on a proposed guidance prior to issuing a final guidance document.
The withdrawal of the guidance does not change any law, regulation, or other legally binding requirement.
December 23, 2020 Marvin G. Richardson
Associate Deputy Director
It seems the Department of Justice (DOJ) is reminding the ATF who is boss. There was previous guidance from the DOJ to the ATF, not to change regulations without checking with the DOJ first.
Some might interpret this slap on the wrist by the DOJ as a reminder of the official pecking order, chain of command, hierarchical structure.
The ATF could have held off of these announcements for a couple of months. It is difficult to see where it would have made much difference, in all the smoke, confusion, and drama ongoing with the election. It is unlikely they would have gained or lost any points in the Biden/Harris or Second Term Trump administration, by simply waiting for a bit.
As someone who worked in various bureaucracies for over 30 years, the ATF has not impressed with its lack of strategic planning, or even a simple understanding of how to play the bureaucratic game in Washington, D.C.
Bureaucracies seldom lose by doing nothing.
Most ATF agents I have met have been diligent, honorable types trying to do a reasonable job premised on a dubious Constitutional basis.
ATF leadership has not had as good a reputation.
In the ATF’s defense, Congress has refused to appoint certain, strong, leadership to the top of this troubled bureau. Because of the Constitutional controversy built into the ATF mission, it is caught in a situation where whatever it does will be examined under a microscope.
In addition to the inherent tension with the Second Amendment, the firearms mission of the ATF, based on the 1934 National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968, are a maze of illogical and contradictory policies. Those contradictions and irrationalities have been highlighted by the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court decisions.
The DOJ may be trying to regain a bit of its tattered and soiled reputation.
The Obama administration, with its outright criminality and coverup of the IRS, Gunrunning, Chinese corruption, and refusal to honor congressional subpoenas; followed by the attempted coup against President Trump and ignoble lack of action by first AG Sessions, then what appears to be a “wait out the clock” strategy by AG Barr, leaves half of the American electorate with strong and justified suspicions of any actions by the DOJ.
One result of the withdrawal of guidance is the enhanced paper trail of waffling on the issue by the executive branch.
It makes it harder for the ATF to claim it is enforcing obvious law, or that any citizen would be able to determine what the law is on any day.
When the law is unclear, courts are supposed to rule in favor of the citizen, against the government.
©2020 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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