‘Secret’ ATF move could turn 3M to 4M gun owners into felons

Washington Examiner – by Paul Bedard

President Trump’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, in a move his own son has warned could alienate hardcore supporters, has taken the first step to regulate and tax one of the nation’s most popular weapons for plinkers and hunters, the AR pistol.

Without notice and citing unexplained concerns about “public safety,” the Justice Department’s ATF has ordered the maker of several popular AR pistols to “cease and desist” in the production of the top seller “Honey Badger.”

The order, which maker Q LLC complied with to avoid criminal prosecution, has jarred the gun community.

While only Q LLC has received a cease-and-desist letter, most AR makers also produce a version of the shorter-barreled Honey Badger pistol. And if all of those guns are reclassified to rifles by the ATF, 3 million to 4 million owners could become felons overnight, according to the industry group Gun Owners of America.

“President Trump needs to do something,” said GOA’s Alan Rice. “This serious stuff. We’re talking about making law-abiding people into felons,” he added.

The ATF told Secrets that only New Hampshire-based Q LLC’s Honey Badger was the target. But, a spokeswoman added, “regarding other firearms or manufacturers, ATF cannot comment until we see the platform and what accessories may be attached to said platform.”

At issue is the National Firearms Act, a holdover from the Prohibition era and gangland machine gun shootings, and the modern AR pistol. Under the act, rifles with barrels shorter than 16 inches are designated “short-barreled rifles” and require a federal permit and a $200 tax. Permits can take months to get, making the weapons unpopular.


Pistols, nearly always with shorter barrels, are not subject to the act. Working with those rules, AR makers developed a special arm “brace” for users to make short-barreled versions into a “pistol,” a difference long endorsed by the ATF.

Technically, the braces, needed because AR pistols are heavier than normal handguns, are not rifle stocks, standard on the regulated short-barreled rifles. Still, some braces are adjustable and can be used on a shoulder like a stock and are, by some hunters, a loophole of sorts.

What seemed to get Q LLC into trouble with the ATF was its marketing campaign. Most AR pistol makers have posted videos showing their AR pistols being used like rifles. AR rifles are the most popular rifles in the world.

The company’s lawyer said the decision was a shock and unjustified.

Gun owners, notoriously suspicious of the ATF, feel the move was a signal of more to come, especially if Trump loses the election to gun control advocate Joe Biden.

“I urge the ATF to step back from what appears to be a snap decision, as it looks to have been made in a vacuum and goes against previous decisions regarding pistol braces. Though there is likely a lot we don’t know about how this decision was made and gun laws are never black and white, perception is reality in the world today. It would help if the ATF would publicly clarify this decision,” said Justin Anderson, the marketing director for Hyatt Guns of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The National Rifle Association and GOA are also fighting to stop the ATF, as are several lawmakers, led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a close Trump ally. In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Gaetz said the ATF’s decision was made “in secret.”

In a recent interview, Donald Trump Jr. told Secrets that it’s not the president who wants any change to the AR pistol rules, but the so-called swamp. “It feels like someone rogue there trying to play games prior to an election on the gun issue.”


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