Here is the final version of what I submitted to the ATF regarding the proposed pistol brace rule. The original was longer, but they have a character limit.
I’m writing to oppose your proposed rule change regarding pistol braces. The proposed change is designated “ATF 2021R-08.” Your proposal fails both in principle and in details. This rule change should be rejected.
In the introduction, you write of firearms that are “dangerous and unusual” and are “gangster guns.” You also write of guns intended to be fired with only one hand on the gun. On principle alone, these arguments go against your case.
“Dangerous and unusual” does not apply. The braces are made for pistols that are not concealable, so the braces do not facilitate unlawful concealed carry. The braces themselves are too big to conceal. When paired with a pistol, the combination may allow for somewhat more discrete carry, but no one can use this combination for unlawful concealed carry. Nothing about the brace makes pistols more powerful or able to fire faster. The braces do not contribute to pistols being “dangerous” or “unusual.”
“Gangster guns” were an outgrowth of Prohibition. Prohibition ended many decades ago. The gangsters who used these guns are only figures in history. This reference only shows that the proposed rule is based on anachronistic rationale. The overwhelming majority of people who prefer these pistols today are good citizens who like firearms that can be packed more easily. These people have no interest in shootouts over alcohol distribution. Many of these good citizens are active duty or reserve military members and veterans. The modern Al Capone who wants to eliminate rival gang members will use a regular stock on a pistol because he’s already planning to commit murder.
Another anachronism is the insistence that handguns are to be fired with only one hand. For over fifty years, most training on handgun use has involved the use of both hands for most shooting. Generations of law enforcement have been taught to shoot duty handguns with both hands. They in turn have taught that technique to civilians who have sought training in the use of handguns. Insisting that use of two hands negates a firearm being a pistol is foolish.
In terms of details, many of your arguments are simply wrong.
You argue that an adjustable brace is primarily for the purpose of using the brace as a stock. You argue that adjustability has no real purpose for someone firing a pistol with only one hand. Again, the single-handed argument is an anachronism that weakens your case. Beyond that, the notion that everyone who is going to use a brace will be comfortable with the same length of brace is foolish. Shooters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are going to be more comfortable with a brace that rests near the elbow. Others are going to be more comfortable with a brace that rests nearer the wrist. Making braces adjustable allows manufacturers to market a single device that will be useful to a wide range of shooters.
You argue that a bipod negates the need for a brace and therefore suggests a firearm that will be used as a rifle. That argument is also foolish. Precision shooters have been using bipods and other kinds of supports to make precision shots with handguns for decades. A bipod is an entirely reasonable accessory for a pistol.
You argue that “flip up” sights are evidence that a pistol is going to be fired as a rifle. Again, this argument is nonsensical. These sights are perfectly acceptable for pistol shooting. The modern rail at the top of many pistols gives owners the option of traditional scopes, modern optics with dots or holograms, or some form of traditional sights without lenses. That many of the traditional sights made for these systems will also flip down does not alter their use in any way.
You argue that a hand stop along the front rail of the pistol makes the pistol into a rifle because rifles were traditionally fired with two hands. Again, this argument is anachronistic. Many generations of law enforcement have been taught to shoot a handgun with both hands. This teaching has filtered to the civilian community. The primary exception has been when people needed to use one hand to hold a flashlight, but even then, the proper technique was to use the wrist of the flashlight hand to brace the wrist of the shooting hand. That the preferred technique for the use of some pistols is to put the support hand in front of the trigger is irrelevant.
These rules will not make Americans safer. That one or two mass shooters have used a braced pistol doesn’t change the fact that the overall of effect of these devices is to give American citizens more choices for exercising their rights to self-defense and the enjoyment of shooting sports. I have critiqued only a few of the problems with the proposed rule, but these problems are enough to show that the entire rule is needless, arbitrary, and poorly-thought. The entire rule and the ideas behind it should be rejected.