The 52-page rule 2021R-08, signed by the Attorney General in June 2021, set to go into effect last August, may come to the land this month if approved. Some say it is a done deal; others seem to think it is all but forgotten. From the many federal law enforcement friends contacting me about this happening and what they can do, I think it may be right around the bend. What does this mean for the almost 40 million people who could become felons overnight? Be prepared. That is why they are calling me, a 20 plus year lawyer and 07/02 FFL firearms manufacturer and dealer, who has been doing NFA trusts for years and teaches about the laws to many other lawyers across the state.
A stabilizing brace is an accessory used on the rear of a pistol allowing someone to “stabilize” the weapon using their forearm as a point of contact. It is not designed or intended to be used as a stock. Therefore, the brace does not convert a pistol into a short-barreled rifle designed to be fired from the shoulder with a barrel less than 16” and an overall length of less than 26”. Here are two "pistols" with different stabilizing braces on them.
The federal government has proposed an unbelievable list of conditions to determine if a pistol equipped with a stabilizing brace is, in fact, a short-barreled rifle, a weapon regulated by the A.T.F. under the National Firearms Act. The list is long and confusing. Some factors are the weight of the weapon, the overall length of the weapon, the design of the accessory, adjustability, length of pull, attachment method, and more. If you have enough “points,” the weapon is federally regulated.
If your weapon falls into the class of weapons known as short-barreled rifles, you will immediately be violating both federal and state law. Both are felony charges, and, under Texas law, you could get up to ten years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for simply possessing the weapon, according to Texas Penal Code §46.5.
But, the federal government is giving those who have legally bought or acquired the stabilizing braces and built their pistols using them a couple of options. These options include surrender, destruction, or registration of their legal firearm with the A.T.F through the application of a Form 1…which costs an additional $200 for the application and the tremendous waiting period for their approval. But, in their graciousness, the federal government plans to waive the $200 tax to exercise your right if you register your weapon.
One needs to know their options if one plans to continue the possession by taking advantage of the amnesty period and the Federal Government’s waiver of the $200 fee. If you decide to keep the weapon, you must complete a Form 1, technically known as a Form 5320.1. This is an “Application to Make and Register a Firearm.”
If done as an individual, you will have to complete, in duplicate, the form, provide fingerprints and a passport picture, and, without the waiver, pay a $200 fee. Once this is completed and submitted, after many, many months (if done using the paper forms), you are approved, you will receive a paper form with an actual stamp. If done as an individual, only you may possess the item. Others may not unless you are physically present with them.
If you would want to share the weapon without their presence, control who gets it after death (without probate), and be able to modify both of those relatively easily, then you need to apply for the tax stamp using a trust. A trust is an entity allowed to possess items for the benefit and use of a person. In this case, a trust may possess an unlimited number of weapons co-trustees may possess individually without the others. These are some of the significant benefits of using a trust.
When applying for a Form 1 using a trust, any “responsible person” must provide fingerprints, passport photos, and a responsible person form. This is only done on those with the ability to possess the weapons when the application is made. Individuals can always be added after approval without needing the listed items when applying for the Form 1.
Now, if someone files a Form 1 and gets approved, if they ever want to place the items in a trust, they will have to have all trustees complete the items mentioned above, and then the settlor/trustee will have to pay $200 tax fee on EVERY item they want to move from the individual to the trust. Therefore, it is paramount to have a trust set up in advance if one wants to share or easily control the testamentary passing of the items.
Using an attorney well versed in both criminal weapons law and NFA trust law only helps you make sure your rights are protected. Moreover, using a Texas NFA Trust Lawyer to protect your investments and controlling who gets them after you pass is the smart thing to do. Depending on a gun shop employee or an online website sales shop to do your legal paperwork is dangerous as they are not lawyers who know the law and the impacts a little grammatical error can have. In fact, some mey even be committing the offense of Unauthorized Practice of Law, which could be a felony.
This year, two bills have been filed to change the NFA to remove short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, and certain other weapons from the 1986 Internal Revenue code. If you are inclined, please contact your legislator to let them know you support the bills and want to strengthen our second amendment instead of weakening it. You should reference Senate Bill S.4986 in the Senate and H.R. 9033 in the House. They are called the Stop Harassing Owners of Rifles Today Act or the “S. H.O.R.T.” Act.
Is the Stabilizer Brace change a sure thing? No one really knows, but my law enforcement friends are calling me wanting to know what they need to do. Them calling me is a sign something is on the horizon. Of course, we could be wrong. But, I usually recommend a trust to anyone who is going to get in the NFA game.
Ronnie Yeates, Texas NFA Lawyer, is a licensed Federal Firearms Manufacturer and Dealer (Type 07/02) and has been providing legal counseling on firearms issues for years. He is a published author on firearms law and teaches across the state about firearms laws. As well as helping others become FFLs, he has prepared NFA trusts for many clients for over a decade and defended many clients with felony and misdemeanor criminal matters related to firearms. Ronnie welcomes your call and looks forward to helping you navigate the potential in the future.
Contact Ronnie if you have any questions regarding NFA trusts, setting up an FFL, appealing a denial on a ATF Form 1 or 4, denied on a 4473, or if you are charged with a weapons offense.