ATF Reversal Could Turn Millions of Gun Owners into Felons

A declaration from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives could leave millions of American gun owners in serious legal jeopardy.

In a letter made public on Tuesday, the agency informed a New Hampshire gun company that its AR-15 pistol model equipped with a specialized brace is actually an illegal short-barreled rifle and anyone who owns one could be subject to up to 10 years in prison or $100,000 in fines. Industry insiders put the number of AR-15 pistols equipped with similar specialized braces at about 3 million.

The decision appears to conflict with several similar determinations made by the ATF dating back to 2012, when the agency told Sig Sauer that the braces, designed to strap to a shooter's forearm instead of being pressed against their shoulder, could be legally combined with guns that have barrels shorter than the 16-inch federal limit for rifles. The new letter calls into question the basic legality of the devices and leaves gun owners in flux just three weeks before the presidential election.

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