The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced the finalization of the stabilizer bar ban on Friday, and within hours members of Congress were discussing using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block it.
The CRA was introduced in the 1990s as part of speaker Newt Gingrinch’s (R) “Contract with America.” It gives Congress the ability to review an important rule and vote to block the rule’s implementation or effectiveness.
The Brookings Institute summarizes the CRA:
The Congressional Review Act, passed as part of the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996, creates a streamlined procedure for Congress to disapprove and thereby invalidate regulations promulgated by various federal government agencies. The CRA requires all rules to be reported to Congress. After receiving that report, Congress has 60 legislative business days (which is generally a much longer period of time than 60 calendar days) to introduce a special joint resolution denouncing the rule.
That resolution could be pulled out of committee and avoid the Senate filibuster, allowing Congress to challenge the vast regulatory powers of the administrative state on something closer to an equal footing.
The US Government Accountability Office explains the CRA as follows: “The CRA allows Congress to review “major” rules issued by federal agencies before the rules go into effect. Congress can also disapprove of new rules, so that the rules no longer have any force or effect.”
One of the characteristics that can make a rule “major” is if it incurs $100 million or more in annual costs. In announcing the adoption of their final stabilizer bracket rule, the ATF points out, “This rule is expected to have an effect of more than $100 million on the economy in at least one year after the final rule.”
On January 13, 2023, Breitbart News reported the announcement of the ATF’s final rule, noting that it gives current owners of AR pistol stabilizer bars 120 days to do one of the following:
• Scenario 1: Turn in the entire firearm with the attached “stabilizing bracket” to ATF;
• Scenario 2: Destroy the entire firearm;
• Scenario 3: Change the short-barreled rifle into a long-barreled rifle;
• Scenario 4: Applying to register the weapon under the NFA; or
• Scenario 5: Permanently remove and discard the firearm’s “stabilizing bracket”, or modify it so that it cannot be reattached.
The ATF notes:
This rule is effective on the date it is published in the Federal Register. All guns with “stabilizing braces” or similar attachments that constitute NFA guns must be registered in the Federal Register no later than 120 days from the date of publication; or removed the short barrel and attached a 16-inch or longer gun barrel to the firearm; or remove and discard permanently, or modify the “stabilizing bracket” so that it cannot be reattached; or the firearm is returned to your local ATF office. Whether the firearm has been destroyed.
In July 2021, with the pistol bail rule in the proposal stage, Rep. Richard Hudson (R) 140 members of Congress by suggesting that the proposed rule was a tax on “disabled war veterans.”
Hudson called for the stabilizer support proposal to be withdrawn, noting that many times the ATF had explained its position that such braces were “legitimate”:
The ATF has repeatedly stated, “The bracket concept was inspired by the needs of disabled combat veterans who still enjoy recreational shooting but are unable to have reliable control of heavy handguns without assistance. Consequently, ATF agrees that there are legitimate uses for certain ‘stabilizing braces.’ If this is the ATF’s position, then…[the proposed AR-pistol rule] is not an attempt to curb gun violence, as suggested by this proposed directive, but a direct tax on disabled war veterans.
On July 16, 2021, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee responded to the ATF’s proposal for the stabilizer bracket rule: “The ATF’s proposed rule goes far beyond the authority granted to the agency in applicable federal statutes. Congress has not criminalized the use of a gun arm stabilizing brace under the GCA or allowed its regulation under the NFA. Through the proposed rule, ATF seeks to subject stabilizing braces to criminal sanctions from the GCA and NFA regulation without a Congressional ban on the underlying activity.
The Congressional Review Act is in place for moments like this and applies if the stabilizer bar ban does indeed meet all the criteria of a “major” rule.
The US Government Accountability Office explains, “The CRA allows Congress to review ‘major’ rules issued by federal agencies before the rules go into effect. Congress can also disapprove of new rules, so that the rules no longer have any force or effect.”
AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio and a Turning Point USA Ambassador. AWR Hawkins holds a PhD in Military History, with a focus on the Vietnam War (Brown Water Navy), the United States Navy from its inception, the Civil War, and early modern Europe. Follow him on Instagram: @awr_hawkins. You can sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange. Reach him directly at [email protected]